My first real job when I moved to Boston was at a one-hour photomat called Moto Photo. The thing that makes the job crappy was that I was paid probably about $6.25 per hour, but other than that, it was kind of an awesome gig. Plus, take it away, Def Leppard!
One of my main jobs was quality control/packaging. The process was fairly automated. Rolls of film were fed into a machine that spit out developed negatives. These were then put into a machine that exposed the negatives onto a giant roll of photographic paper. It was carried, through rolls and conveyors through development chemicals, and spat out at the other side of the machine into neatly cut 4x6 photographs. My job was to collect the piles of photos, look through the entire stack to make sure the colors and alignment were correct, then package the prints in envelopes with the negatives and file them into bins alphabetically for the clients.
On one hand, this experience warped my perceptions for all eternity: I cannot look through a stack of photographs the way a normal person can. I look at them in a rapid-fire manner, scrutinizing for color balance, exposure, etc. I take in what I'm seeing, although it doesn't look like it to the proud owner of the prints. More than once I've heard, "You're not even looking at them!"
But I am. I am.
Working in a place like this, you experience the joy and wonder and good times vicariously. I've been three steps removed from weddings, births, vacations, parties, reunions, sporting events, concerts, celebrity sightings, you name it. This was also the days before digital cameras. We had a number of repeat clients, people I saw several times a week. Insurance companies, galleries, Realtors all needed photographic documentation often. So I got to know some of our regulars. Every once in a while, one of them would have a couple frames left on a roll, and would snap off shots just to fill it out before dropping off. I've seen a number of wife-boobs due to these thrifty urges.
On the subject of naked people: I've seen A LOT of them. I did not ask for or seek out the exposure of nakedness. I simply punched a clock, and voila! Naked people. It's not so bad. I went to art school, after all. I've seen naked people. I've even drawn them.
On one day in particular, I was leafing through photos at my usual breakneck speed. I picked up a stack that looked a lot like a number I had seen before: The College Keg Party, known primarily for the proliferation of red keg cups, baseball caps, and chummy, arms-around-shoulders, cups-hoisted head shots. One girl in particular was featured in a majority of the shots. It became clear, in retrospect, that this girl owned the film at hand, and posed in most of the frames. These were run-of-the-mill pics, boring, really. Until the last few shots. These featured our young lady, pants down, leaning back on a bed with what can only be described as a Huge Apparatus inserted into her lady-bits, with a look on her face like the one that most people reserve for riding on an awesome roller coaster. If this photo could speak, it would say, "WOOOO HOOOO HOOOO!"
Somewhat amused, I nudged my friend Dan, "Hey, heh. Check it out."
Time passes. I'm packaging, Dan is working the counter. I hear a girl's voice, here to pick up #3497. Dan digs in the bin near me, retrieves an envelope, places it on the counter and takes the money. She asks, "Do you guys look at these pictures?" I say, without looking up, "Yeah, sometimes we pass 'em around," to look up and see that girl, aghast. She turns crimson, does an about-face, and bolts from the store.
Whoops! Sorry... She should have gone with a Polaroid.
Stay tuned for Part IIIa: "Way More Excessive Porno Than Even I Can Tolerate In The Work Place."