The Wedding Photographer

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Write a story about a wedding photographer.... view prompt

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Drama Mystery Suspense

There were days I would return from my long photographic expeditions during monsoon times soaked in heaven sent rain. I would wear the most fabulous smile a person ever wore, radiating with that joy inner passions bring. Photography was my passion. 


Soon after coming home, I would carefully select the best ones and convert them into videos. I would plug-in lilting instrumental music and post them on Youtube. I had a considerable following. I felt triumphant, the man and the camera: Mother Nature and her humble servant. I became a much sought after ace photographer.


 ****************


It is very charming to enjoy the scene of a sunset in a cloudless sky in Mumbai. It marks the end of a hectic day. The sun was going down and shed its mild rays from the western sky. It looked like a dish of gold, matching the Scotch whisky I was nursing, savouring every drop of it with a smug smile on my face. 


My cellphone sprang to life.


"Hey Buddy", the loud voice at the other end was that of my dear friend Sunil Mehta. "Are you in town or some jungle flirting with nature?”


"Good to hear from you. Sunil, my dear friend." I replied cheerfully. "How come you remembered your poor friend after all these months?"


"Sorry. I've been travelling." Sunil Mehta sounded apologetic." I am personally inviting you to grace the wedding of my daughter. Nothing would give me greater

pleasure than to have you take some exclusive photos of the happy occasion. The

formal invitation is on its way, and the e-Invite must be in your inbox tomorrow.So, don't give me any of your good old excuses. "


Mehta was a well-known multimillionaire in town who had his fingers in every business pie possible. Besides, he had inherited vast tracts of land assets going back a couple of generations. Despite all his wealth, he was very modest and humble. I was happy for him.


In the run-up to the grand wedding, Mehta held a garden party on a day of blue skies and sweetly rising heat. Amid the flowers, amid the petals in a romantic hue, we were renewed that day. Love was in the air like a new kind of electricity, so palpable and real.


I loved being a wedding guest. I could feel the love right out in the open, uniting the souls together. Having an invitation to such an event is a blessing indeed.


*****************


Early on Sunday morning, I went to Mehta's palatial home. The idea was to take exclusive photographs of his wife and daughter before the elaborate wedding rituals.

I selected his traditionally furnished drawing-room for the shoot. There was sunlight streaming through the window into the room through thin golden curtains. Beautiful light permeated the room, which solved my main concern. 


Soon, the two ladies sat in two plush chairs next to each other. In the background hung a large contemporary painting showing the cosmos and green land. After long and careful focus and choosing the right angle and light for the shot, I was satisfied with the setting. I started taking the photos double-checking them all the time. As I was using the top-of-the-line digital camera, I was confident of excellent results. I wrapped up the shooting and went home, promising to check and take out prints of the best exposures.


******************

I went to Mehta's home the next day, and I was the first person to meet him.


"Well, Mr Photographer," he asked, unable to hide his curiosity. "Are the photographs of the ladies adorable?"


"I got the pictures all right," I said, beaming, unwrapping an unmounted

photograph. "But I have to admit that I found the pictures odd."


 "Why do you say that?" he asked. "I have no reason to suspect your technical competence. I think you are the best." 


"Thank you." I said, "the funny thing is that only two ladies took their seats to pose."


"Quite right," he replied 


"There was no third lady at all there?" I queried. 


"Only if you imagined she was there..." he smiled and looked at me with raised eyebrows.


"There were only two ladies there when I clicked." I insisted." But when I took a print in my lab, there were three ladies in the picture."


'What?" Mehta was looking worried. "Do you want me to believe that there were only two persons when you clicked and three when you took out the prints? He asked. 


"Yes. That is what has happened," I said.


"Then there must be something wrong with your camera or the printer."


"No, Sunil. They can never go wrong. My camera is the latest Canon RF mirror-less with a sensor, and the printer is the Canon's Print Studio Pro plug-in with unique software. Best that money can buy. I have taken excellent pictures under conditions hostile to photography." 


"I am baffled now." Mehta was looking harassed. "Please explain to me what has happened."


We sat in the comforts of his air-conditioned office, and I showed him the photograph.


Mehta looked at it for a minute and turned very pale. He closed his eyes and leaned back on his plush leather chair. He didn't utter a word for a couple of minutes.


I was taken aback by his reaction. Then gently, I asked him what the matter was.


"The third lady in the middle was my first wife, who has been dead these twenty-five years." Mehta suddenly appeared to be a broken man. Can you tell me how you came about capturing this shot?"


I explained to him the sequence of events.


"When I started taking the shots, there were only two ladies, both of whom were sitting in plush chairs. When I printed the picture, I found that this young lady was standing in the middle.


She wore a broad-edged Sari (the traditional dress Indian women wear), and I could see only the upper half of her body. The backs of the chairs covered her lower half. Still, everything was quite clear. Even her long diamond necklace was visible. She was resting her hands on the backs of the chairs, and a ring on the right ring finger was visible."


Mehta was intently listening to me.


I continued. "One thing, and probably the funniest thing, that I overlooked then but observed afterwards, was the large painting immediately behind the three ladies. The two ladies, one on each side, covered up the painting to a certain height, but the lady in the middle was partly transparent because the painting was faintly visible through her". 


Mehta patiently listened to me and remained silent for a couple of minutes, trying to recollect memories of a sad chapter in his life. Then, haltingly he started talking.


******************



"Before her death, Sunita, my first wife, asked me several times to have her formal photograph taken in our well-furnished drawing-room. She used to say that she had a premonition that she might die early. I did not believe her, but I did not object to the photograph. I was always travelling and forgot about it amid my busy schedules."


Mehta stared at the photograph for a few seconds with moist eyes. He took

a deep breath and continued.


"So one day, to keep her in good humour, I asked her to dress up and told her that the town's best photographer was coming over to take her photographs. She was very excited, ran to her room and dressed up for the last time of the day. She had the necklace and the earrings on, as you see her wearing in the photograph."


"When she did not turn up for the shoot, I went to her room to fetch her. I was shocked to find her hanging from the fan, wearing her wedding dress and decked up with all the jewellery. Due to the sensitive nature of reporting suicides, I did not provide specific details about her suicide to any of the authorities. I was not aware Sunita had avoidant personality traits. Convenience in various aspects of life did not guarantee her to lead a happy and stress-free life. She never displayed usual suicidal behaviour such as depression, a major risk factor for suicide attempts or other suicidal behaviours." 


Mehta sighed and wiped his tears.


This story was too big a pill for me to swallow. So I asked Mehta to call his present wife. She was astonished to see a third lady in the picture but could not guess who she was because the lady had never seen her husband's first wife. There were no pictures of her anywhere in the house. She brought out the necklace and the earrings for my inspection and conviction. There was no doubt that they were the same as those in the photograph.


*************************


The social media, the press, and the TV channels got hold of the story,and within hours, the media and sundry onlookers were vying to look at the 'ghost' photograph. Attractive offers for the purchase came from some well-heeled people. But I refused to supply copies for any price as I found the thought of selling the pictures disgusting and unethical. 


One journalist cornered me. "Sir was it a stunning image of a tortured apparition making a rare performance for the cameras or something more you invented."


"Stop accusing me of duping people. I take a solid objection to your impertinent comments." I countered angrily. From the perspective of a professional, I am a photographer. I am someone who doesn't believe in ghosts. I can't attribute many effects that aren't due to some photographic technique."


"I apologize." The journalist became defensive. "As smart-phones are freely available with all kinds of software built in them, ghost-photographs have become common. In modern times, dust particles, camera straps, flares, shadows and the like have

become deceptions, and unscrupulous people add such ghost images to existing

photographs to make quick bucks."


"No amount of your theory of money will make me part with any of my

ghost photographs." I laughed and patted his back as I left the scene.


I handed over all the photographs to my friend Mehta, barring a copy of the first 'ghost' photograph for my record, but I did not show it to anybody.


****************

After months, I met a well-known occult practitioner at a social event and casually broached the photograph's subject without disclosing the details. 


He remained silent for a minute and looked at me with probing eyes to determine whether I was serious or pulling a fast one. He smiled and said, "The girl in question was dressed in that particular way for a photo session 25 years ago. At the time of her death, she cast her image in space, and the reflection was projected from one bright planet to another till it made a circuit of millions and millions of miles in space and then came back to earth at the exact moment when you were going to make the exposure. Well, this is my theory. Believe it or not." 


I had read a little science in school, but this theory was too big for my limited comprehension. I politely excused myself and left the party.


The fact, however, remains, and I believe it, that Mehta's first wife did come back to this terrestrial earth twenty-five years after her death. She posed for a photograph in a form that did impress a sensitized camera lens. But it did not impress the retina of our eyes. 


I wanted to take photographs of the two ladies once more, but I never ventured to approach Mehta with the proposal. 


It is now over ten years since the event mentioned above happened, and the dead lady has never appeared again. 


         ********************TheEnd************************

May 03, 2022 06:20

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