Thursday, August 4, 2022


When I began my professional career in photography I used a number of different photo labs.  Back in the 1980s, in a large city (Houston, Texas) there were many labs, unlike today where there are hardly any, anywhere.  I used labs near to the studio, or near to the client and tried them all.  After a while I learned which ones were good, which ones were not so good and which ones were best for certain specialties.  Eventually I figured out that one lab got the earliest Kodachrome processing delivery, and which lab was best for C-41 or E-6 film processing.  All my black and white processing and printing was done by me, in-house, but I learned which labs were best for C-prints or Type-R or Cibachrome or other things.  All in all I used about a half-dozen different photo labs, but there was this one lab…

I have clear memories of occasionally using this one photo-lab, but now, well, I don’t think it really existed; I think I have a ‘false memory.’  I recall using a particular lab, not frequently, but from time to time, for film processing.  I have no recollection of the name of the lab or the names of any of the people there.  The lab was in a multi-story building, not a high-rise or skyscraper, but not the typical strip-center type photo lab either.  The building was near the Medical Center and I remember having to ride an elevator up a few floors.  Once inside the door there was just a simple counter, usually staffed by a woman, inside a large, studio-like room.  Linoleum floor, industrial fluorescent lighting, no windows.  I recall the smells of chemistry.  It was an older studio-lab, seemingly run by old guys doing ‘bread and butter’ photography like copywork, and slide duplication, and simple tabletop studio photography.  Whoever they were, they weren’t a big deal and were not like the guys I knew from our local photo-district, aka, the ‘photo ghetto.’

The people at this lab, usually it was just the lady behind the counter that I dealt with, were always very nice, professional and courteous.  Nice folks.  Why didn’t I use that lab more often?

Could it be because it never really existed?

This was a time period roughly from the early 1980s to the early 1990s.  I can remember the names of most of the labs I’d used, and their locations.  For this ‘mystery lab’ I can vaguely remember the location but not the name.  Although I didn’t use that lab often, I remember going there on multiple occasions.

Yet I can’t remember the name nor do I have any receipts from the place.  (I don’t archive receipts from over thirty years ago, but…)

What’s happening here?  I have clear memories of the place: the approximate location, the elevator, the fluorescent lighting, the large studio-room, the counter, the nice people, the smell and always being happy with my processed film.  Yet, now, I’m starting to think that the place never really existed.

It’s not really a big deal.  Life goes on just fine.  But I wonder, was it real, is it a false memory, or do I have a brain tumor or something?  Why do I have this memory but there’s absolutely nothing physical (real, provable) attached to it?  None of this really matters today but it’s certainly odd.

So after thinking about this one night during the hypnogogic state I asked someone I know has some psychic ability – my wife.  She answered, with great certainty I should add, that I’d experienced a “brief intersection of different universes or parallel realities.”  She went on, “somewhere in the multiverse there’s a version of you that uses that photo-lab, briefly this version of you visited that parallel universe and that’s where the memory comes from.”

Hmmmmm, okay, that’s some kind of explanation.  Possibly plausible and definitely unprovable.

That’s it.  That’s all I’ve got, just a memory.  And I’m really beginning to believe that lab never existed (in my universe, anyway) and my memory isn’t accurate.  I’ll never know, but at this point I’m comfortable thinking my memory is false.  Now, if I should ever find out the lab was real, I’ll really freak-out!

Does anyone have any other theories?  I’m open to hearing them all!