The Photographer’s Tale
by Daniel Mills
‘Shall we proceed?’ asked Arthur.
‘Of course,’ said Lowell, nodding. He had already prepared the collodion mixture and adjusted the lens. All that remained was to open the shutter. Taking up the flash box, he slipped his head under the cover and placed his eye against the viewfinder.
The powder vanished from Mrs. Whateley’s brow. In its place he noted the swelling of an under-skin bruise. As Lowell watched, horrified, the colors deepened and spread, leaching through flesh and tissue to collect in a series of purple bruises down the woman’s neck, creating the imprint of a man’s hand around her throat.
Lowell’s stomach clenched. The air left his lungs, and he gasped for breath that would not come. She looked up at him then — perhaps only to wonder what was taking so long — and in her eyes he saw a silent suffering, such as he had once glimpsed in the eyes of another, and all at once, he understood everything.
Whateley had come to him seeking concealment. Like many clients, he wanted an image of false happiness, another mask for the violence and cruelty they both strove to hide — he with his airs and false benevolence and she with her daubs and powders. Mrs. Whateley gazed back at Lowell through the viewfinder, her eyes bloodshot, sightless.
He swallowed. ‘I’m—sorry,’ he said and withdrew from the hood. He stepped backward from the camera. ‘But I cannot go through with it.’