The sound of a printer.

The slow deep rhythm of a well tuned wide format printer calming my evening reminds me that what I’m doing is not so very different from the job I started right after I graduated from high school, working the second shift deep in the cold ceramic tile bowels of the Ford World Headquarters. I was a skinny kid in glasses, finding my mastery conducting a mechanical symphony of roll head contact printers, burning miles and miles of Kodak RC into glossy 8×10’s of gas guzzling monsters gleaming in the fossilized glow of a plastic desert sun.

Those years under the red light must have also burned something into me, because I’ve only been good for working second shift ever since. The last thing my grumpy old boss said to me when I quit to move out west and get an art degree was, “You think you are leaving, but you’ll always come back here.”

At the time I thought he was referring specifically to work at the lab in Ford, and he was half right, because it was hard to swap the relatively easy money to be made cranking out a seemingly infinite reel of soulless industrial imagery to feed the corporate machine’s narcisisstic reflection for the scary, uncertain life of an artist that might end like some Grimm fairy tale of depravity and starvation “out there” that the horrified parents of would be art students have been telling their progeny for untold generations.

After living that very nightmare long enough, I did return years later to work as a photographer, and was astounded to find the same crew still around, and the same petrified cans of miniature wieners in the same gray vending machine. Their company was comforting in its familiar stagnant frustration, yet I was still more gleeful to escape again after another six years for a graduate degree, my soul relatively intact and nothing before me but a million and one shot at landing that mythical job as a professor of photography, which I did, moments before someone fixed the ventilation system and a slight pixelated whiff of impending obsolescence logarithmically escalated into a biblical flood that wiped away the whole analog world, my old job, and the photo department with it.

Ten years later it seems that apocalypses come in cycles, and I’m back to working second shift again, listening to the sound of a different kind of printer.

The old crew at Ford is retired, and I don’t expect that leaky old Hope machine is still alive in the basement either. I wouldn’t go back there even if I could, but maybe that old lab boss was talking about something bigger.

I’d never have suspected him of the imagination.

Posted by scoopneil

1 comment

Ann Chowdhury

Well written progeny!

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