ChapterWith the Photographer

“With the Photographer” is a short story by Stephen Leacock that discusses insecurities, appearance and humiliation from the point of view of the nameless narrator. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Author

  • Stephen Leacock was a Canadian teacher, political scientist and writer
  • Born: 30th December, 1869
  • Place of Birth: Swanmore, United Kingdom
  • Died: 28th March, 1944
  • Major Works: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914)
  • Best Known for: Being a wonderful humorist and creating light-hearted sketches.
Photographer in Studio with Old Camera
Photographer in Studio with Old Camera

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Summary of the Chapter

This story has been narrated in the first person by an unnamed forty year old man.

It describes the harrowing experience of this man who merely asked for his picture to be clicked at a studio but was subjected to the whims and fancies of the photographer.

I WANT my photograph taken, " I said. The photographer looked at me without enthusiasm.

The opening remark describes the earnestness and eagerness of the man to have his photograph taken. The photographer is not impressed with the man at the very first moment.

The photographer asks him to wait for an hour. Meanwhile the man browsed through various magazines such as The Ladies Companion for 1912, the Girls Magazine for 1912 and the Infants Journal for 1988.

Photographers are natural scientists and work with chemicals for getting the desired results. The man felt like he had intruded into the privacy of this man’s scientific pursuits. Thus, the writing is witty and humorous. The photographer is a drooping man with a gray suit. After an hour, the inner door is opened.

Come in, he said severely.”

I went into the studio.

“Sit down,” said the photographer

As the man sits down, a beam of sunlight filtered through a sheet of factory cotton hung against the frosted skylight.

The photographer rolled his machine into the center of the room. He then adjusted the cotton sheet in the window panes so that light and air could enter. He crawled back behind his machine and the narrator became still.

Finally, the photographer appeared from behind the machine and mentioned that the man’s face wasn’t quite right.

Right at the beginning of the story, the reader realizes that Leacock may be exploring the theme of insecurity. In today’s age of Photoshop and political correctness, the photographer’s remarks would probably be construed as body shaming. Yet, we all can relate the struggles of a studio experience.

The face is quite wrong,” he said.

“I know”, I answered quietly; “ I have always known it.”

He sighed.

“I think”, he said “the face would be better three-quarters full

Photographer Processing Film in Darkroom
Photographer Processing Film in Darkroom

The photographer came to where the man was sitting and twisted his head sideways. He twisted it as far as it could go and then said that he doesn’t like the head. He walked back to where the machine was. Then he asked the man to open his mouth. He quickly asked him to close his mouth after that.

He asks him to droop his ears. They were bad according to the photographer. He asked him to roll his eyes under the lids. Then he asked him to turn, put his hands on his knees and turn his face upwards. He keeps instructing him more and more.

He is still not satisfied with the face.

“Stop”, I said with emotion, but with dignity. “This face is my face. It is not yours, it is mine.

The man is now full of emotion as he says that he loves his face. It may not be perfect, but he has lived with it for forty years. As he starts to rise from his seat, he hears a sound. The photograph had been taken.

On Saturday, the man went back. The photographer was standing there - proud of himself. He showed him the proof of a large photograph and they both stared at it in silence.

Is it me? I asked. “Yes” he said quietly, “it is you,” and we went on looking at it.

When the man enquired why his eyes looked different, the photographer said that they had been retouched. The eyebrows had been removed.

Using a chemical process called Delphide, the photographer had adjusted the brow line too. The mouth too looked different. When the photographer started to say that he can completely remove the ears also with a process called Sulphide, the man stopped him.

The man was enraged and spoke up. I came to you for a photograph that would depict me the way heaven created me, he said. I wanted a photo so that my friends could remember me even after I die, he said. However he was mistaken. What he wanted was no longer there.

Go on, then, with your brutal work. Take your negative, or whatever you call it, - dip it in sulphide, bromide, oxide, cowhide, anything you like, remove the eyes, correct the mouth, adjust the face, restore the lips, reanimate the necktie and reconstruct the waistcoat.

The man says that the photographer can do whatever he wants. He is free to coat it, emboss it, gloss it or shade it. Nothing matters anymore. He can give to his friends. It has no value or worth anymore.

Saying this last line, he breaks into tears and leaves.

The moral of the Story

Be happy with the way you are. Don’t feel bad about anything. God and nature created you and no matter what others say you can’t please everyone. We should not unnecessarily judge others or hurt anyone. Be kind and gentle.

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Above and Beyond the Text

Canadian literature

Canadian literature mostly consists of works in English and French and other indigenous languages. Alice Munro, Yann Martel and Margaret Atwood are some of the famous Canadian writers. Canadian literature is important for students as they can learn about the rich diversity and history of the country.

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With the Photographer Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

What is meant to be a quick experience turns out to be a long ordeal for the narrator. It describes a man’s disappointing experience when he visits a photo studio to have his picture taken.

The man is clearly upset as he walks out crying. The outcome of the visit was completely opposite of what he expected.

The photographer is not concerned about the feelings of the man and leaves him distressed.