Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where it started for me

I read a pretty fascinating blog entry here (click here).  And so I thought I too would share my very first job I ever held.

At the end of my matric year (equivalent to Year 13 for the New Zealand readers) I found a job as a photo developer / printer at one of these 1 hour photo labs at the local CNA (one of the local shops similar to Whitcoulls).  It was only a weekend / holiday job, but it was cool because it paid for my secretarial studies at the local technical college.

I didn't have to deal much with any customers as the CNA staff were responsible for that.  My main job was to take the films that the customers handed in, get the negatives developed and then I would have to print it from there.  The only times I really dealt with any customers was when some of them would bring in their camera with the film wrapped around it and then I'd have to explain that it was exposed to light and so no photos would come out. And they would plead with me "please try".  Which I did, and of course nothing would come out.

My machines were pretty old.  Nothing like these fancy digital ones you get nowadays.  When the negatives came out of the developer I would then slide them through this tiny little lit up screen and work out whether I need to adjust the colour or whether I needed to compensate for over or under exposure.  And just for fun my machine would sometimes "act up" and cut the photos in the wrong places and then I'd have to start all over again.  Or my colour adjustment choices would be wrong.  Or the paper would get stuck and I would have to reload it.  Really awkward when the customer stands there waiting for their photos and they can see you struggle and you then have to explain that it will take even longer because you have to re-do them. 

The worst was likely when the electricity went out and I would have to stand there and slowly and manually turn the handle so the negatives could still develop as they should and of course they would then still be wet when they came out so we would need to hang them somewhere to dry.

Oh wait!  The worst was actually when a negative would get stuck in the developer and by the time you realise it there would be about 7 other negatives following behind it.  And the only way to get them out was to open the developer and unfortunately expose these negatives to light.  And in typical Murphy's Law style it would be somebody's wedding photos or a first birthday or some other event that you can't really do over again.  Sure we had a disclaimer on the envelopes, but it didn't make it any easier having to tell somebody that they won't have any photos of whatever the event was.

And oh the fun when the CNA staff accidentally mixed up the numbers.  When somebody handed in a film there would be 2 identical number stickers - one that goes on the negative and one that goes on the envelope so you are able to match them up.  So when these get mixed up it is virtually impossible to sort it out afterwards and somebody would have gone home with the wrong set.

Then we got those who after a drunken party would hand in their films and you'd find naked photos.  And of course these are the people that then come back within the hour.  They don't wait a week or two, no on the hour they are there.  So we would typically wait for them to come back and then say something like "sorry I haven't counted out your photos yet, why don't you look at them as I count them?" and of course they would feel really awkward having an 18 year old girl look at their naked photos with them. I figured I may as well have a bit of fun at their expense...

The most memorable time was when it snowed.  It was something like the first time in 20 years that it snowed (or something like that).  I woke up on the Sunday morning and it was white everywhere.  Beautiful.  And as I walked into CNA it was strangely quiet and empty until I turned towards the photo counter and saw the long queue of people waiting.  And that was the start of what was probably the busiest I have ever been.  By the time the shop closed that day I was fully booked a week ahead.  My machine was barely able to handle 70 films a day and on top of that we also had a double print promotion and because all the photos were of snow, there were many that were very over-exposed making it an even longer process to print them. 

Another memory I have of this time was this really grumpy CNA staff member.  She (for some or the other reason) was absolutely terrified of cats.  No idea why but she could not even look at a picture of a cat.  And sometimes some of the staff would go and get a greeting card with a picture of a cat and put it on her cash register which would then make her completely freak out as she was about to help a customer.

And that was where it all started for me - of course I ended up in a totally different direction, but I think it was a pretty fun and different start :-)

What was your very first job?


Paul said...

You certainly had some unique experiences in the photography business. Must have a think about any funny teaching situations that I can blog about.

Susan said...

Thanks for sharing it Lea - gave me a whole new respect for people in that line of work. We used to drop our film off and collect it without much thought of the things that had sometimes gone wrong behind the scenes! I would never have imagined some of your experiences... a very entertaining post :D)