The Photograph (Fiction)

They were posing for the family portrait. The silhouetted shadow of the conservatory roof fell above and to the left of them. With his shock of dark hair and brown moustache, Ernest was dressed in his best black suit and matching waistcoat, with a white rounded-neck shirt. He was standing behind the wooden seat while his wife, Alice, wore her best black dress and the silver locket left to her by her late papa. She was still grieving and had a pained expression on her face. She wished her papa could have lived to have met baby Grace. She was the first girl born to the family for ten years. He had died just days before she was born; such a tragedy.

Alice sat demurely in front of her husband and held baby Grace affectionately in her arms. Grace wore a beautiful lace and delicately embroidered cream dress that had been passed down from her Victorian cousin. William stood on the seat next to his mother in his very best outfit and smartest shiny shoes. How quickly children’s feet grow, thought Alice; William’s shoes were so expensive and more than they could afford if truth be told. They loathed admitting to their relatives how difficult they were finding managing their finances since Ernest had to retire from his work as a factory foreman. His health had declined over the few months after the pneumonia he contracted left him weak. He tired quickly and needed to rest in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, he remained in good spirits and rarely let his exhaustion be known.

Huh! I’d really rather not have my photo taken, Ernest thought. I feel so uncomfortable. It’s such a formality, and I do have better things to do. I’d much prefer to be participating in a game of charades in the parlour. Entertaining guests is far more enjoyable and less of a bore, in my opinion. One is expected to be smart and tidy at all times. What do I have to do to please the family?

Stand still, son; the photographer is trying to take our photo – let’s not waste his time. William! For goodness’ sake, stop fidgeting. I know it isn’t easy to have to stand still for so long, but you must try to make an effort. Now, be a good boy for Papa and look at the camera. No, please don’t pull such a peculiar face. Look at your new sister; she’s not pulling silly faces, is she? She’s being so good despite the fact she’s been passed around the family. Aunt Maud and Aunt Mabel both said she was an absolute charm, and your Grandmama really dotes on her, too. Yes, of course, they love you too, William. Now, please keep still; I’ve already told you twice. The photographer looked up and smiled at the boy, although he tried his best to hide his impatience.

Oh, I do hate wearing ties, Ernest thought. I tied the knot too tightly – it’s most uncomfortable. It feels as if it’s choking me. I do wish I’d worn a different one. He went to fiddle with his tie in an attempt to loosen it slightly but then realised he wasn’t showing a very good example to his son, William. William glanced up at his father and looked very fed up and bored. Ernest recognised that the boy would much rather be playing with his new brightly-coloured spinning top in the nursery. He was only three years old. However, he still expected his son to be on his best behaviour; but he felt quite sorry for him and gently put his hand on William’s shoulder to comfort him a little. He wasn’t such a strict father underneath his stern exterior.

Alice felt tired and longed for the photographer to hurry so that she could retire to the drawing room to relax for a while. She was having difficulty sleeping since the recent loss of her father. As she thought about her papa, the tears welled up in her eyes, and she attempted to choke them back for fear of spoiling the family portrait. It was traditional to have a new portrait taken with each new child’s birth. Ernest and Alice would have liked to have had more than just the two children. They’d thought, perhaps, when Grace had grown a little, but finances were such that they knew they wouldn’t be able to afford any more realistically.

William let out a bored sigh, and Ernest looked down at him. William!! For goodness’ sake, will you please take your finger out of your nose; what will the family say when they see you doing that in our photograph? You will spoil it, and they will think you a very naughty boy, Ernest declared sharply. William pulled a cross face at being on the receiving end of his father’s obvious displeasure. William, if I have to tell you one more time to behave properly, you will be sent to bed without any luncheon, and you will stay there for the duration of the afternoon. The boy’s face became even more sullen. Baby Grace had begun to whimper, and Alice looked tired and strained.

This is so tiresome, Ernest thought, thoroughly fed up with the whole affair. If he were honest, he’d rather have been able to retire to his bedchamber for his late morning rest. If only I could change into my nightshirt instead of this most irritating outfit. Thoroughly fed up and irritated, he frowned and glanced upward as if pleading to the Lord to end this entire business.

Suddenly, just at that moment – ‘Click. Clunk,’ went the photographer’s box-brownie camera! Snap!

Author: Ellie Thompson

Writing my memoirs, musings, a little fiction and a lot of poetry as a way of exploring and making the most of my life ... ... Having had a break from writing my blog for more than three years, I decided to return to write my memoirs, some day-to-day observations, views and feelings. My passion is non-fiction poetry. I have a disability and use an electric powerchair called Alfie and let nothing get in the way of living life to the full. I believe that you can never do a kindness too soon and should give credit where credit is due. A smile or a kind word could make the difference between a good or bad day for a person - we never know what's going on for another soul. Those little things, perhaps, practised daily like a mantra, could mean so much to someone else. Thank you for visiting my blog and reading a little more about me. Please, make yourself at home here. You are very welcome. Ellie x 😊

35 thoughts on “The Photograph (Fiction)”

  1. I am glad birth photographs were not a tradition in my family. By the
    time my little brother arrived, next after me, that would have made a family of twelve. No way the photographer could have got everyone focused properly at the same time.

    1. My Mum and father had a fair few birth and child photos from when my three sisters and I were small. It seems, with family photos, that lots are taken of the first baby, less of the second and even less of the third or subsequent children. I guess there’s not enough time to keep up with photos when you already have older children to care for.

      The photo I’ve used was a photo I was given as a prompt for a piece of writing, which is what I’ve done here. It’s not a photo of my family. It’s an Edwardian couple with the two children. At that time, my ancestors were still living in various areas of Eastern Europe, Russia, Poland, Lithuania and Hungary. I wasn’t sure about the ending of my story – I don’t think it was strong enough or even whether it made much sense. I wrote it some months ago, but have been fiddling about with it for ages, trying to get it ‘right’ (whatever right is in fiction.)

      I think you would have been right – a photographer would certainly have a challenge getting a family of twelve to keep still at the same time. 💙

      1. I am just getting ready to go to the city for medical appts, but I will try to get back to you with my thoughts on yoyr ending.
        Meanwhile, what the author writes as the ending is the ending. Whatever the motivation the author has is the important thing. If the readrs don’t like the endings, let them write their own stories. (That may sound harsh, but only the author knows what is happening in the unwrirren background.)

          1. LoL. Just getting ready to leave. Takes a whole day to get to the city. Appts on Monday and Tuesday. Leave for home Wednesday morning, arriving Wednesday night — if all goes well. If bad weather along the way, might not get home till Thurs or Fri. This is the time of the year for big blizzards in our part of the world. They happen without warning. We always have to be prepared for them.

            1. I hope your appointments go well when you get there. It certainly sounds like a long trip. I really do hope you don’t get caught up in a blizzard over there. It must be frightening to be in the middle of one, especially while you’re driving. Good luck.

      2. I’ve looked over your ending. The last paragraph is perfect the way it is — just as the way the camera works. The picture is taken blinkety-blink, and it’s over.
        I fear it is the penultimate paragraph that it bothering you, and had you been a male you might have worded it a bit differently, but there is nothobg wrong as it stands.
        I think the ending is good, as is the whole piece!

        1. Thank you very much again for your reassurance. Yes, that’s what I wanted to capture – the fact that, all in an instant, the photograph is taken, and it’s too late to change it. I’m unsure about the penultimate paragraph; perhaps you could expand on that for me. As you know, I always value your opinion. Thanks, J.

          1. I was just thinking the man’s thoughts about his situation “might be” too gently expressed. These were his thoughts, not his words. He would not have censored himself. A curse word or two might have been appropriate, along with a bit harsher verbiage.
            This is just an example, not saying you need to learn to write like a man;
            “Damn kid, why can’t he just do like I tell him! Here I am cramped up in my best Sunday clothes, and for what? A damn family photograph! Shite, wouldn’t I rather be wrapped in my blanket without the girl bleating beside me. Family! How did I ever get stuck with a family! Damn useless tradition!”

            I went a bit overboard, to try to give you a good idea of what can go through many a man’s head and how he might express himself. Not all men think this way, fortunately. But there are lots who do. I meet them everywhere I go. When women are not around they express themselves much more freely. And there are no women inside a guy’s head!

            1. I love your interpretation, J, although I’m not sure whether some of those words were being used (although perhaps, thought as you suggested) back in Edwardian times. It would have been interesting to know what really went on in the father’s head.. Yes, you’re quite right – there are no women inside a man’s head. Likewise, there are no men inside a woman’s head, either. Hope you get on okay at your medical appointments. Drive safely and take care out there 💙.

              1. So glad you got to the city in one piece. Ten hours is an incredibly long journey to go to get to your medical appointments. I hope your 10am appointment tomorrow goes well. I’m not surprised you’re sleepy. Hope you slept well. Do let me know how you got on when you get back and have time. Take care on your journey home, J. 💙💚💜

  2. Beautiful photography. Nice you sharing old photo. Beautiful Nice wearing suit. So nice you written words in . I like. I have my old photo our family.

    1. Thanks for your reassurance, Mick. I spent ages before publishing going over and over the ending, not knowing if it would come across in an understandable way. It was one of those posts where I was toying between the publish button and the trash button, and then decided to just go for it, and if it didn’t work, it’ll be a learning experience.

    1. Dear John, I really must apologise for not replying to your comment sooner. I’ve had my grandchildren staying this week and have hardly managed to get anything else done. I’m so glad you enjoyed this story and that you also like the old photos. Thank you very much for being kind enough to read it and comment 😊.

  3. What a lovely story, Ellie! I love how you imagined the moments before the camera clicked, all the interpersonal dynamics of a young family at the turn of the century. Really well done. You should be proud of this one.

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