The Millionth Print
"The first million prints are the hardest." - Old photo lab saying
I make photographic prints. "Just print 'em, don't think about 'em..." I've said it myself, after another day of dealing with thousands of images. Weddings, birthdays, scenery, rites of passage, portraits. It's easy to start thinking that everybody is taking the same pictures, over and over. But they aren't. Every person has a story, as does each picture. They may not be the most interesting tales, but they are a part of that person. Some stories, of course, are sad.
About the time of my millionth print, the counter person came back with a special, rush order. "Memorial Service", no charge. It wasn't from a regular customer, it was from a pro who usually used the big lab in the suburbs that specialized in wedding packages. He needed a 16x20, mounted, of a bride in her wedding dress. I printed it; it was stunning. An attractive, healthy woman in her mid-twenties, with an obvious joy in her expression, not just because it was her wedding day, but because she enjoyed being alive. I packaged the order and brought it up to the counter, where I got the more of the story:
She was on her honeymoon, out west, when the horse she was riding was spooked by a snake; she was thrown and died instantly. The paper had the obituary: Recent grad in a health service field, working at a major hospital, married, and now gone. The photographer said that no one from the family had seen any of the wedding pictures, that the album hadn't even been started, and that he brought this negative here so that there would be at least one picture of her at the service that showed her at her finest hour.
Some days are better than others. Some days you just go through the motions. Some days you forget about right away. And some days you never forget.