The Photographer

by Daniel Finkel

The photographer worked the square, sounding it out with his feet. There were people there, men and women, and he agitated them, much in the same way that vinegar agitates baking soda.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he would say, popping up. “Your picture?”

And the lady would look at his pale face, at his mittens and his flower-printed scarf and say, “Not today.” So he moved on, camera poised like a snake-oiled, electric-lensed grasshopper. The pictures he took were strange. They were of pigeons pecking at seeds, or bricks in a wall, or beggars crouched on city doorsteps. Sometimes, at restaurants, he would take out his camera and snap a few photos.

When he got home, he would develop the pictures in his dark room, and then hang them up on the wall. If he thought the arrangement looked striking, he would take pictures of the pictures, and then pictures of the pictures of the pictures, and hang those up as well.

That day, in the square, not many people wanted to be photographed. Still, he kept at it. After a time, it got dark. Then it began raining. Then it started to lightning and thunder. Finally, discouraged, he headed for home. As he walked, the rain was beating on his head, overflowing the streets and pounding down into gutters and subbasements and under-cellars. Suddenly, he heard the sounds of a scuffle coming from a nearby alleyway. He approached.

In the alleyway, three men were struggling, rolling about, fighting to stand up and then falling over again. It was clear that some kind of robbery was taking place, but in the uncertain light it was hard to tell who was the victim, who the thieves. The photographer raised his camera. Snap. Electric flash. Thunder and whir.

“Hey!” yelled one of the men on the ground. “Get away from here. Run now or you’re next.”

The photographer advanced a step into the alley. He took another picture.

“Something wrong with your head,” growled the man. He stood up. “I told you to leave!”

The photographer kept on snapping photos, coloring the walls of the alleyway in bare white light. The man advanced towards him. He did not look fierce as he approached. He looked wild and hungry and scared, but the knife in his hand was sharp. “Told you to leave,” he said. Then he lunged. Lightning flashed, above and below.

The photographer lowered his camera. He was alone, in an empty alleyway. He turned and went on his way. When he arrived back at his house, he discovered the three men again. He printed them out, developed them, and hung them on the wall.