History in a Light Table

The Light Table

The light table I confiscated from the Observer-Dispatch.

The light table has finally come home where it belongs.

This is the light table from the Observer-Dispatch. Back in 1994 when I was Photo Editor at the OD, I had the photo lab redone, which included having a new light table rebuilt. This light table, this piece of furniture, is my ground zero of the greatest job I ever had.  Last week when I went to the OD for the first time in 20 years and I saw her standing dusty in the corner, covered in food stains and crumbs I was overcome with emotion. 

I look at that table and I can still hear the pounding hearts of anxious photographers as they unrolled their film off of the stainless steel developing reels, stretching their film across the table, then grabbing for the Peak loupe as they held their breath and prayed that they got that award-winning shot they knew would be destined for the front page. 

There are so many memories around this table: I remember crying while looking through negatives of a fatal accident I covered and also on the night Trinkus Manor literally burned to the ground. I remember all the discussions, both light hearted and very serious talks over photo usage and ethics. I remember all the times Beth Mundschenk went out on crappy assignments and came back with freakin’ gold. There was the night I edited Mike Doherty’s film from the Woodstock fires and picking a photo that ran in newspapers all over the world. I remember all the times I shot a fire at 1:00 a.m. and hurried back to the OD, working so fast I had a print in to the News Desk by 2:00 a.m. to make the final edition. And of course, I remember our tradition of photographers, reporters and editors playing black jack with paper clips around the light table on election night while waiting for results to come in before we hit the streets.

The best of it all is standing at that light table and remembering all the first glances of amazing, award-winning photography on the negatives that laid across that glass:  Images that were so compelling they are forever etched in the minds of many central New Yorkers. Images that brought about smiles, tears, and even change…all captured in a fraction of a second.

All of that rushing back into my memory while standing around this one beast of a light table.

The generations of talented photographers, reporters, editors that walked across the floors of that newsroom are forever heroes and relics in their own right, relics of that 3rd floor space that is now filled with empty desks and looks like ancient ruins of some great historic past.

Unfortunately, the Observer-Dispatch building is up for auction. Fortunately I was able to kidnap the light table and save it from certain demise. She will now live in my studio within view of my desk. Just being in the presence of it brings back so many memories and emotions I can only compare to static electricity: Every time I walk by it I am zapped by bittersweet emotion.

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