Thursday February 10th, 2011

The exercise:

Your prompt today: the photograph.

I think I'll be taking a few while we're away. I will try not to drown you in them upon our return.

Note: I'm away on my honeymoon so this is a scheduled post. Yes, still. I'll be back eventually.


A moment,
Captured in black and white,
In Paris,
Their hats tipped to the right.
Ties undone
And collars loosened up,
Each holding
Their spirits in a cup.
Two soldiers
Preparing to ship out,
Both knowing
Fear and terror and doubt,
But neither
Daring to let it show,
Just grasping
Joy before the blood flows.


summerfield said...

The Secret Photograph

She first saw it when she was seven, old enough to understand. It was tucked away underneath yellowed papers and frayed cards, locked away in her father's bureau. She found out where her father hid the key quite by accident, when one morning she had gone down early and sat unseen underneath the stairs, the morning darkness aiding in the camouflage.

She vomited when she saw it then became sick, the mere sight traumatizing her and she knew it would be for life.

It was the photograph of a woman giving birth, the head of the baby coming out from between the woman's legs. The image got stuck in her mind, and, combined with the memory of her own mother's agony whenever she gave birth, she had understood at such a young age that having a child was painful. She promised herself she would not have children.

When she was thirty, on a visit to her father's house, she went directly to the bureau, turned the key dangling from the lock, pulled the photograph and asked her father, "Who is this woman?"

Her father grabbed the photograph from her hand and threw it inside the drawer. "A friend paid so much money so that that photograph would not be seen by anyone. I am an honourable man so I am not about to tell you who she is. I was entrusted with a secret and I will pretend until the day I die that you never saw it."

"Tell me who that woman is. I want to know."

"If it will give you peace of mind, it is not your mother."

When her father died ten years later, her stepmother handed her an envelope. Inside, among a few other photographs, faded and mildewy, was the photograph. She winced then as she had the first time she saw it. But this time she didn't vomit. There was a short note addressed to her.

And that's how she became the keeper of his secret.

Heather said...

Summerfield- I pity the main character. I was drawn in by the unstated loss of the woman.

There she stood, arm in arm with her mother and sister. A warm breeze blew at their skirts, causing them to gently brush against their knees. It was Spring, a time of renewal. Buds were on the trees and the grass was turning muddy. She felt filled with the energy of rebirth. Feeling strengthened by her surroundings, she stared into the stern face before her.

He stared back. His scalp felt prickly from the sweat caught between it and the weight of the helmet. His legs were sore from holding his body rigid hour after hour. The only good thing about the assignment was the young girl in front of him. She was beautiful. In any other situation, he would have approached her and asked for a dance. Instead, he stood with the barrel of his gun pointing at the ground and his face impassive.

That was what the photographer saw. Both ease and anxiety, strength and discomfort, lines that blurred together in a fight that made no sense. The photograph told the story in the space of a 5x7 frame in the New York Times.

Greg said...

@summerfield: A fascinating and well-told take on the prompt, but I do feel a little let-down that you've not even hinted who the woman in the photograph might be. I love the idea of the continuity of the secret though, that a short note can explain enough to ensure that, but just a little more of a hint? Please?

@Heather: I like all the detail in your take on the prompt, and the switch from the girl's viewpoint to the man's. I like the idea that the entire wordless story of the connection between them is then captured by a photograph and shared with the world in a newspaper; it captures an aspect of reality really nicely. I wonder if perhaps your last sentence might be stronger as a paragraph of it's own though? It feels a little overshadowed where it is; I think it should be a fourth voice in the piece.

@Getafreeblog: If you'd like to share your writing with us, I'm sure we'd all enjoy reading it!

@marc: I'm sure we'll enjoy seeing the pictures, you've posted some pretty good ones you've taken before!
I really like your poem, the structure is great and supports a rhythm that fits well with the scene. It's going to seem a little strange, but I think it might be better if you introduced the two soldiers a little earlier: given how short the poem is, I think leaving the main characters till the middle to mention them deceives the reader a little. What do you think?

The photograph
The photographer was well-known for staging these little exhibitions. He always paid for them himself, the money coming from a trust-fund, and they were always lavish affairs. Some ultra-trendy space would be found, canap├ęs and champagne would be laid on, and celebrities and sublebrities alike would attend at his invitation because they all knew they'd all accept.
The pictures were universally bad and ignored; out of focus, poorly cropped, shot without a flash or overexposed, fingers and thumbs obscuring important details, and occasionally obscene instead of erotic.
This time however, everyone was transfixed by the photograph at the centre of the exhibit, the first good one they'd seen from him, and surely an accident. Ignoring the defecating dog in the foreground (out of focus and half out of frame as always), the way the sunlight caught the water of the petti-adorned fountain was entrancing.
The photographer had no idea, and resolved to produce a collection of defecating dogs straight away.

gada said...

The Photograph

As usual, her eyes went back to the bedside table, to the oak framing that one perfect day.
The four of them at the beach, back when they were young and immortal. She thought about that moment every single day.
At times she even dreamed it again, the sun, sand and surf, swimming all morning, the picnic with sand blowing everywhere, on the sandwiches. The long drive back in the evening...the problem was that she never could wake up before she saw the end. The smidgen of red in the corner of her eye that never stopped growing till it all went black.

Marc said...

Summerfield - wonderfully intriguing piece. More please?

Heather - beautifully captured.

Greg - I think you have a point about mentioning the soldiers earlier. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I think it'd work better that way.

Can't stop laughing at that final line. The whole thing is great, but... yeah. Brilliant ending.

Gada - very nicely done. Some great details in there, the sand getting in the sandwiches in particular.