The Lightbox: Paul Morrison

Time flies. Oh, does it ever. And, no question, especially when you’re having fun.

My old light table still stands where it always has – up against the wall in the basement office –but nowadays the on/off switch takes repeated flicking to get the fluorescent bulbs to fire up simultaneously. Requests for images on film are becoming increasingly rare. The cost of couriers, scans and shipping/handling insurance are too expensive and time consuming when compared to the free, near instantaneous transport of high quality digital files.

 

Paul Morrison
Ian Morrison, Bike Champ. Time is not the only thing that can fly.

Words and photos: Paul Morrison

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And so nowadays, the old light table mostly just sits there, a bit of a relic from another era (some may draw a parallel here), but when those lights finally do come on, another world awakens. A world full of friends, trips to distant places, and memories of laughter and experiences shared.

Thirty-six ‘clicks’ per roll, one roll at a time – this library of ‘keepers’ was built, frame by frame, over the years. Conventional thinking of the day was that this library of favourite images would be a retirement savings plan that would yield income for years to come. So much for conventional thinking!

This light table holds stories beyond the images captured. Each week, a drive to Vancouver to get the film processed, and then home again to spread the individual slides over the light, magnifying loupe in hand. The highs and lows of the process were often intense, with victories less frequent than disappointments.

This light table holds stories beyond the images captured. Each week, a drive to Vancouver to get the film processed, and then home again to spread the individual slides over the light, magnifying loupe in hand. The highs and lows of the process were often intense, with victories less frequent than disappointments. Exposure, focus and framing all needing to be very nearly perfect, right from inside the camera. There were no ‘after the fact’ alterations possible, an expensive and environmentally unfriendly process.

Laying the film out on this glowing table always felt a lot like being a kid on Christmas morning. Rarely was it exactly what I’d hoped for, but it was usually still pretty good. Looking back, I think the high cost of pressing the shutter and the many challenges of successfully embedding an image on film was possibly part of what helped give each frame a little extra meaning.

It’s been 35 years or so of working as a full time pro ski photographer and my library of images totals in the tens of thousands. But, if each image took an average of one five hundredth of a second, the total exposure time for all these images would be less than two minutes long. And yet, on just this one, old industrial light table, I can see a lifetime of places near and far, with good friends and amazing memories. (When I can get it to turn on that is.)

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