Why “J” was Full of Shit

There was this insufferably arrogant photographer I knew back in the 1990s who I will call “J.” He was loud-mouthed, pushy, bossy, disrespectful, and conceited. He was the kind of guy who never hesitated to tell you how you were doing something wrong.

In 1997, at the urging of our parent company at the time, American Publishing, J came to Enid to meet up with a bunch of us photographers and explain how much better his life was now that he was shooting digitally. This was, mind you, 1997, and the digital cameras of that era were 6-pound behemoths, with tiny sensors that yielded a whopping 1.3 megapixels, without the help of infrared or anti-aliasing filtration of any kind, and didn’t even have a monitor on the back. He brought us some 8x10s, and they were dismally poor in quality.

One point he made strenuously was that in his days in the black-and-white darkroom, the chemicals were “so bad” that his doctor believed that he’d been using cocaine. He claimed the chemistry of the darkroom literally burned a hole between his nostrils.

I can tell you that he was probably telling you the truth, but not the real reason. I’ve been in AP darkrooms since the early 1980s, and they were awful, terrible messes. Puddles on the floor. Uncapped bottles. Spilled chemistry on the countertops. If I had kept my darkroom like theirs, there might be a hole in my head, too. But, there isn’t, because I actually followed the directions on the chemicals. They didn’t print them to make the containers pretty. It actually mattered how you handled them, and if you used the proper care, you wouldn’t destroy your body while making great photos.

By the way, I happen to know that J was fired from at least one job in our area because he was such a jackass.

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