James was the most in-demand wedding photographer in town. And, sure, his photos were technically quite good, but that’s not why couples wanted him to be the one to capture their special day. James’ wedding photos, you see, predicted the future.
James didn’t know exactly when or how he acquired this special power. Or even if the power was his - maybe the power belonged to his camera. And it was this uncertainty that made James ritualistic about the prediction photos - wearing a uniform of indistinct all black, working to blend into the background of the wedding as much as possible so he could capture the day as it happened, always waiting until the following morning to load the photos from the camera’s memory cards onto his computer so he could review his work with fresh eyes and a fresh cup of coffee. These may sound like the traits of any good wedding photographer, and they aren’t far off. But to James, it was all part of the process. What if he changed something that would change the prediction? He didn’t want that responsibility.
When couples contacted him to schedule his services, they often had so many questions James couldn’t answer. Mainly, the questions amounted to: were there factors the couple could control that would impact their prediction of the future.
James had never put on airs and didn’t pretend to understand the unknowable, so he always told them: no, they should just plan their special day as they wanted to and not take the prediction photo into account. James couldn’t control exactly when or where the prediction photo would occur during their wedding day.
In James’ review of his photos, his first step was to flip through all the photos fairly quickly. He could always make some early selections, easily spotting the best of the best. And he could almost always spot the prediction photo on this first, quick pass as it was usually in stark contrast to all the other photos.
The husband and wife on the beach with three kids. The bride in all black, now an older, mourning widow. The husband as a coach, standing amidst the happy chaos of a little league championship. The couple with their young family, watching in horror at their home burning down.
Happy, sad or otherwise, these photos were never easy to see. They startled James every time. Still he tried not to let the black sheep of his photo set interrupt his process: he would flag it and continue his quick skim through the photos to find some favorites he knew he would edit and process for the couple.
James never knew how far into the future a prediction would be. Even after seeing the photo, sometimes he wasn’t sure of the timeline, though he could provide a rough estimate if asked. And while he always hoped for a good news kind of scenario, the truth was it was about 50-50. And that was true of life, James thought, a mix of highs and lows and plenty of mundane moments in between.
The happiest prediction James ever delivered was to a couple called Hector and Dolores. They were in their late thirties when they got married. (James didn’t judge - he’d photographed couples of all ages. Love found you when it found you, he always thought.) James didn’t know it at the time, but they had been trying for a baby for a few years before they got married. It seemed Dolores couldn’t get pregnant and they were devastated, but still committed to each other and so got married. James’ prediction photo showed them in a hospital room with a beautiful baby girl, a true dream come true for the couple.
Hector and Dolores were so thankful to James, sure that he was somehow responsible for this miracle in their life. They invited James to their home to take newborn photos of their baby Yessica when she was born, hoping to learn her future. James declined their request time and again. While he was curious to see whether that would work, whether he would be able to deliver a prediction photo outside of a wedding, he couldn’t face the burden of predicting an innocent baby’s future. What if it showed an early death? What if it changed the way she was raised? James couldn’t handle that kind of responsibility in his life. What he had was hard enough.
Any prediction showing death or disaster was always hard to deliver. Though, in some instances, those were easier to hand over to a happy couple than a photo predicting divorce or another soon-to-come negative.
At first, James didn’t think he wanted to know whether or not the predictions came true. But that soon became the second most popular question couples asked him when they booked his services: how accurate was he?
Eventually, James gave in. He did some amateur sleuthing involving Google and local newspapers. In some instances, he enlisted the help of a private investigator in-training who kept her prices low. What James learned startled him. 100%. His predictions were accurate 100% of the time. While he of course couldn’t see if the exact moment in time captured in the photo had happened as portrayed in the photo, the circumstances could be confirmed. Divorce, death, birth, happy moments, mundane moments… all could be found to be true through a thorough Google search or, in some cases, a simple phone call to the family.
Throughout his career, James had never really come to terms with this ability he had. It always unsettled him when he paused to really think about it. How were these photos created? After so many years, and with such accuracy, it couldn’t simply be an accident. Still he didn’t have any other tendencies to know the future. He had no psychic abilities.
In the end, James attributed this magical power to his camera. True or not, it made it easier for him to cope. Mde it easier for him to go about his life and not focus on this incredible power he wielded in his hands. Or in his camera.