Vivat Photocopy!

15 Sep

The photocopier that sits in the reception area of the office where I work is a finicky beast. A grayish tan, squat, filled with mysterious drawers and trays, it wheezes and death rattles and jams its way through the print, copy, fax and scan jobs we feed it. More often than not, copy jobs are interrupted by the need to open our photocopier’s gut to remove hot crumpled masses of paper stuck in its innards. I spend a lot of time cursing and kicking the photocopier at my job. I spend an equal amount of time sneaking photocopies while none of my superiors are watching. This old photocopier has reproduced dozens of copies of all of the issues of my zine, Sassyfrass Circus. I have learned the tricks of image adjustment, collating, double sided copying, and total stealth on this machine. It is as essential to me as a stethoscope to a doctor or a camera to a photographer.

I have read predictions that the photocopier is becoming obsolete, going the way of the pay phone (that beautiful friend that saved me from being stranded so often in junior high), as offices go digital and move away from the use of paper. How can this be true? I am invested in a craft and a culture that revolves around photocopying, that democratizing method of mass production and distribution. Alison Piepmeier writes, “A piece of paper bears the marks of the body that created it as well as carrying other sensory information (“the smell of your house on the paper itself”) to the reader. The paper, then, is a nexus, a technology that mediates the connections not just of “people” but of bodies. Paper facilitates affection” (220). It is the paper that counters “the cultural imperative ‘to keep distant and distrustful, alienated’…and make visible the desire for community and human connection” (235). It is the photocopier that allows participation in this exchange of affection, the photocopier that generates the possibility of participation in the zine community. As the Queer Zine Archive Project proclaims, “Zinesters Do It On The Photocopier.” Zinesters will never do it on the e-mail. The photocopier: reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Vivat Photocopy!

Piepmeier, Alison.
“Why Zines Matter: Materiality and the Creation of Embodied Community.”
American Periodicals: A Journal of History, Criticism, and Bibliography 18
(2008): 213-38. Project Muse.

❤ jenna b.


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