Sarah had always been fascinated with photography. From an early age her parents would buy her disposable cameras and she would quickly fill them. Every week several would have to be deposited at their local drug store for development. It was her only passion and they could not deprive her of it. Her room was wallpapered with snapshots of anything she found beautiful. It was no surprise to them when she chose to make photography her main focus in college. Her parents stressed to her the importance of a balanced education but Sarah had one goal in mind, becoming a photographer.
Sarah’s first year was a struggle. She had not been fully prepared for the course load she would endure, the courses that did not directly involve photography left her barely passing. She put forth enough effort to make her way through her first year. Summer break would be long and her passion was too strong for such a lengthy downtime. She was always open for any opportunity to learn more about her craft. She questioned all of her professors of possible summer programs or workshops to improve her skills. It had been frustrating for anyone who encountered her but they obliged with any information they could provide. One of these particular tips led Sarah to a small studio downtown.
It was a small two-story building among several local businesses. The windows were adorned with tribal decoration that blocked the view of the inside. The sign on the door indicated they were open, so Sarah made her way inside. A bell jingled as she entered the door and she immediately noticed walls were draped with patterns of intricate design. The patterns pulled her focus to them as she made her way to a desk positioned just inside the door. She laid the camera she had brought with her on the desk and scanned the top of it. It was covered with various trinkets from an array of cultures and in the center sat a bowl that burned incense.
A frail Native American woman stepped from a doorway just behind the desk. Her eyes were glassy and her hands trembled as she fumbled through the trinkets on the desk. The old woman’s hands touched Sarah’s camera, which caused her to pause. The woman stepped back, gasping and began asking who was there. Sarah had been startled by the noise and sight, stepping back and covering her mouth to silence her own deep breath. It was obvious the woman was blind and Sarah was unsure of how to respond. The two stood in silence for a moment before the woman spoke again.
“I know you’re here, just tell me what you’ve come for,” the old woman said.
“I-I…,” Sarah stammered, “I was told you could help with my photography.”
The fear on the woman’s face transformed into a smile, “So you like taking pictures?”
Sarah started to nod, but noticed how silly the action was, “Yes, yes ma’am.”
“No need for formalities dear, if you came to learn about photographs, then follow me,” the woman replied as her hand waved toward the doorway she had emerged from.
Sarah hesitantly made her way around the desk, taking hold of her camera as she went. The room beyond the doorway was dark and the only light came from candles that sat sporadically around the room. Sarah followed but a sense of fear crept into her mind. She had never been in a place like this and something about it felt wrong. The old woman seemed harmless enough but the images plastered on the wall were less than inviting. Each one was a close-captured image of a person’s face. They appeared to be taken without notice and there was shock in the eyes of each subject.
“Who are all these people?” Sarah sad as her eyes scanned the room.
The woman turned and her hands waved about the room, “I like to take pictures of the students I teach.”
“Why do they look so surprised?” Sarah asked as she touched a picture of a young Hispanic girl.
The woman laughed slightly, “Well, when you can’t see sometimes you don’t take the best pictures. I miss being able to see my work.”
Sarah turned to see the woman standing behind a very old camera. It was the type that still required a flash cube. The woman pointed to a chair that was placed in front of a black drop cloth. Sarah turned to the seat, her hands reaching out to touch the silky cloth. Her eyes turned back to the pictures on the wall and each person had been placed in front of this particular cloth. She turned back to the woman and noticed that the lady was preparing her camera for a photo. Sarah stepped closer but the woman asked her to take a seat. She quietly stepped back and sat upon the chair.
“I was told you could teach me more about the art of photography,” Sarah said, her voice trembling slightly.
“Oh dear, I am,” the woman said, “Did you know that some cultures believe that having your photograph taken can capture the soul?”
Sarah nodded while looking to the exit, “Yeah, I have heard that legend.”
The woman leaned around the camera with a smile, “How about auras, you know the colored patterns of light that show your essence?”
“Yeah, I mean I’ve never believed any of that but I have heard of it,” Sarah replied as she turned back to the woman.
“Good,” the woman said, “What if I told you that this camera is special and can capture that aura?”
The idea was silly and made Sarah laugh but it disarmed her a bit, thinking the woman must be senile. Her laughing face was flashed with light as the picture was taken. Sarah’s smile fell to a neutral position as soon as the room became dark again. She sat stoic on the chair as the woman stepped from behind her camera. Her eyes were lit with a bright green and her graying hair had returned to its natural black hue. The wrinkles that had littered her face were now gone and she had all the vitality of someone of a much younger age. Her lips were bright and curled into a smile as she eased Sarah from the chair and toward another door.
Sarah’s body was forced down a stairwell into the basement as the woman shut the door behind her. She returned to her camera and removed an image of her most recent capture. She placed it upon the wall, her fingers caressing the freshly printed photo. She admired it for a few moments before the ringing of the bell drew her attention to the front of her shop. She exited the back room and approached the front desk. The woman’s hands carefully lit the incense that had burned out upon the desk as a young man approached it. She greeted him happily as he placed a camera upon the desk.
“How may I help you?” her voice now sweet and smooth.
“I was told you can help me with my photography,” the young man said.
“Of course, right this way,” the woman waved him toward the back room and the boy soon followed.
Written by L0CKED334