Not too long ago, in another time, I was teaching at an English as a foreign language center in Hong Kong, where I had been working for perhaps a year too many. As any teacher will most likely testify, I spent a lot of my time in front of a photocopier, printing and copying materials for lessons. During this time, my eyes would often glaze over and my gaze would wander to the world happening just outside the high-rise hamster hole that I found myself in for what felt like the majority of my days. Filled with self-doubt and dissatisfaction, often I’d think of all the things I could be doing, I should be doing or I hadn’t done yet.
On one of these days in early January, while once again standing in front of the photocopier, my mind somewhere else, my finger slipped. What followed was a flash of light, a high pitched squeak and finally a release of a black print from the mouth of this monstrous machine. Instead of quickly tossing this “mistake” into the recycling bin, it gave me an idea, or rather, an urge. I discreetly glanced left and right just to check that no one was watching, opened the hood of the photocopier nice and wide, and before I let any doubt creep in, I placed my face on the glass and pressed “copy”.
What followed was a year. A year of photocopied self portraits filed in a folder. What I viewed as tedious and depressing, became something I looked forward to and as time went by, it became my way of expression, my playroom for the creative child within and my gateway to the present moment. Some days, it brought laughter, other days, I couldn’t bear to see myself and faced that familiar black print that started the whole process. Either way, it helped.
No matter what state I was in, I’d let go with all my imperfection and allow my insides to speak with paper, ink, light, a little imagination and of course the consistency to trust my instincts and just press, copy.