Lately, I’ve been asked about how I got into this business, how I got started, etc.. Got me to thinking about the old days, the humble beginnings and all that. Not that you care but I’m going to share some history anyway.
Photoworks actually started out in Colma, yes Colma, ca in 1986. We owned a business called Captain Video. One day a salesman came calling and said, “hey guys you can open up a one hour photo lab over in the back of this store and you’ll make a lot of money.” So we did, and we called it General Photo. Lame name indeed. Problem was that aside from me owning a camera none of us new shit about photography, let alone about developing film. Not to worry because the company who sold us the idea (Copal, which later became Agfa) said that I could take a 4 day class in Minnetonka, Minn (the one hour photo capital of the World), and that after this class I would be a certified photofinisher. So off I went to Minnetonka. Problem was that I was 25 years old at the time and more interested with finding Prince’s studio in Minneapolis then learning how to process film in a class full of nerds. In the end I did pick up a few bits of information.
Fast forward six months. The one hour photo equipment arrives at General Photo and it’s time to get things setup so we can open the doors and start developing some film. Only thing is that none of this looks familiar to me, maybe I should have paid more attention at photofinishing school. Probably a bad idea to turn the machine on without putting chemicals in first. Chemicals, what’s that?? Alright, safe to say I had some on the job training and with the help of my Agfa technician I did get this thing up and running in time for our Grand Opening. Day 1: I’m in my new labcoat with my name tag on. I’ve got two employees ready to take in some film processing. Our first customer comes in and puts down 100 rolls of film. 100 rolls, we’re going to be rich! So we get to work and process all this film. Turns out that all of the film is blank, unexposed. The customer turned out to be a local nut who must have been shoplifting rolls of film. So ends day 1 in the photo developing business. We soon realized that a photolab inside a video store in Colma was a dumb idea as customers renting porn were not photographers, and the one’s that were, scared me. So we decided to look for a space for our photo lab in the big City. In the spring of 1987 we opened Photoworks One Hour Lab at the corner of Market and Church. By now I had figured a few things out, but had a long road ahead and would stumble many times along the way. Stay tuned for Part 2.