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Monday, June 20, 2011

Magpie Tales 70, Miranda's portrait

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

21 comments:

Sioux said...

Of course, only you--a gifted photographer---would notice a minute detail in the photo like one eye a bit larger than the other. Kay, you took one inconsequential thing from the picture and wove a story around it. Well done!

Leslie said...

i like it!

Dianne said...

How indeed did Miranda's grandchild find it at a garage sale for the paltry sum of $1.99??
Bears thinking about the 100 and one other family treasures that find themselves in garage sales - I guess because the people who these treasures were once important to to, are no longer here and the once treasured becomes just Stuff!!

Kay L. Davies said...

@Sioux—Thank you ever so much, I wish it were true, but I'm not a gifted photographer. Trained by one, yes; helped raise one, yes; and am turning my husband into one, but I'm not one myself after two eye surgeries and shaky hands. But I do love compliments.
—K

Reflections said...

Love what you have spun from yet a simple detail... even with your weaving, you create the surprise ending. Somewhere when the photographer delivered the piece to the father, I fell off on the tangible response of the father and how this is her true being, not a blemish of his skill.

izzy said...

Loving the mysteries! thanks-

Lyn said...

Beautiful and touching story...maybe most treasure diminishes with time..it's good to wonder when such is found.

Kathe W. said...

well written- I always wonder why some items end up forgotten or discarded.

DebbyMc said...

I always wonder, always want to know the story. Loved this =-) Thanks for your comment!

Helen said...

You created a moving, lovely story for all of us .... I think most of us have 'one eye smaller than the other' syndrome ... normally not even noticeable. She was adored for who she was, not how she appeared.

Margaret said...

I also think the backlighting like this wasn't typical. Maybe that is one reason I like it so much!

Grammy said...

You created a beautiful story. I also enjoyed your photos above. Sorry I an so late at visiting. Have a wonderful week. :)

Isabel Doyle said...

I'm glad she came home safely
lovely piece

Steve Isaak said...

Solid, history-minded tale.

jabblog said...

I like the way you began with fact and then transformed your writing into fiction. Cast-away treasures often find new homes with collectors like Tess.

Tess Kincaid said...

Love this. I come from a long line of photographers, beginning with my ggg-grandfather.

Tumblewords: said...

A fine tale. One does wonder at what point touchable memories become 'stuff' to others.

mindlovemisery said...

This is gorgeous I love the fine attention to detail, very touching

mindlovemisery said...

Oh this very interesting I would love to know more!

HyperCRYPTICal said...

A fine tale and I did not notice the eye - well observed.

Anna :o]

Poetry Potluck said...

fantastic,
elegant tale.

keep it coming....


share 1 to 3 poems with poetry potluck week 41 today.