Recently, I started working at a large photo lab here in L.V. Through the tedious and unending process of scanning film and eventually printing pictures (I’m still in training alright?), I see a large number of photographs that normally I wouldn’t even bother thinking about. I get an odd excitement when I get to make reprints or when I pull film out of the C-41 machine. I find it extremely interesting to get to look at photos, be they good or mediocre. It’s getting to see into a life that isn’t yours.
I’ve been pondering ideas and thoughts about the snapshot, it’s place in society and our hearts. I wonder why people choose to take photos that they’ve taken, what makes them press the button at that moment. I am perpetually surprised at the more-often-than-one-would-think great shot that comes out of the average picture taker. I’ve seen a lot of really bad pictures. I’ve grown to hate disposable cameras, given my propensity to stab myself with the flathead screwdriver that we use to pry them open with (high tech, I know).
In the few short weeks I’ve been working there, I’ve gone, through the magic of the snapshot, to at least 20 weddings (mostly all of which were shot on shitty disposable cameras but that’s another post for another day), to the Carribean, to Alaska about 6 or 7 times, to Nevada, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Boston (aw.), Texas, and a Redwood forest. I’ve been at lots of 1st birthdays and Christmas mornings. I went to Disney World in 1994 (albeit underexposed and heat fogged, but still). I get to see stuff that I generally wouldn’t get to see were it not for the inherent need to capture the same moments in time for a lot of us. It’s like watching the good, important moments of your life happen to other people you don’t know. You get to witness the trips and moments you missed out on. It’s strange.
As I see it, all of the pictures that come into and go out of the lab are an endless look into what we love, hate, desire, and hope for. Collectively, it’s a window into (and I hesitate to say the word, since I harp on it a lot) American life. Thousands of photographs by mostly anonymous picture-takers is a “universal” glimpse and a catalog fleeting moments that are held near and dear. The snapshot camera gives a way to hold onto them, even if we just let them sit in albums or on a harddrive.
I am sure that by next month I will get good and jaded at look at pictures. I will get really sick of Disneyworld and Alaska. But right now, this is a novelty.