|Photo provided by Tess Kincaid|
In the first part of the last century, portrait photography was a serious business for both the photographer and his subject. The camera, of course, was on a tripod. Backlighting had to be arranged beforehand, and, after that, the subject’s pose had to remain precisely the same while the photographer ducked under his black cloth to look through his viewfinder, and opened the camera’s shutter. From there he would trigger a flash held aloft in one hand outside the cloth, then close the shutter again.
The portrait of Miranda was almost perfect, with her glossy hair and lacy collar backlit, her beautiful face a delicate mix of light and shadow, her expression soulful but with a slight twist of her mouth revealing humor in the dimples on either side.
“Almost perfect isn’t good enough,” said the photographer to himself when he later developed the plate.
“Here,” he said when he handed the photo to Miranda’s father the next day. “I’m sorry. The failure is mine. I know your daughter left last night for Europe, and this is all you have to remember her by, but I cannot charge you for my work. You see, one eye appears to be larger than the other.”
“But...” said the father.
“No,” insisted the photographer, “take this, and go, with my compliments and my apologies.”
Delighted with the result, despite the artist’s protestations, the father took the photo to his wife, who had lovingly prepared a needlework frame for her daughter’s face.
For the rest of their lives, even after Miranda returned from her years at the Sorbonne, her parents kept the portrait on a table between their two armchairs. After they died, Miranda kept it on the mantel over her fireplace, and left it to her own daughter, who treasured it.
How, then, did one of Miranda’s grandchildren find it at a garage sale, the glass scratched and the needlework badly faded, marked a dollar-ninety-nine?
Posted for Magpie Tales hosted by
Tess of Willow Manor, who provides us with a photo prompt each week, and invites us to write whatever poem or prose the picture inspires in us. Thanks, Tess!
To see how other writer-bloggers responded to the prompt, please click