“When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” – Ted Grant
Black and white pictures, they hold so much memories. A picture, they said, was worth a thousand words. How was it possible to snap one single memory in a frame of paper, conserve it there for eternity?
I remember walking down the block when I saw the machine for the first time, the one that captured people. I thought it trapped people in there, minimising them to fit into that small piece of paper. I was scared, at the beginning. The man behind the machine told me not to be afraid and stand in front of this queer machine. I reluctantly obeyed and stood in front of it. He told me to think of something happy to smile and I did. I thought about how beautiful the weather was and that made me smile. With a flash and a snapping sound, he took the picture.
He handed it to me and I noticed I wasn’t the only one in the picture. A man stood a few feet away from me, gazing at me while I took the picture. I turned to search for him but he wasn’t there. I was curious, so curious, as who was this man. I walked back to my house keeping him in my mind in case we got to meet again. I put this picture in a frame on my dressing table. I stared at it, the small details of the picture, it was black and white and almost grey. The buildings towered above the tiny dots of passing people, yet the only thing that seemed frozen in this hectic picture was him and I. I was smiling, so wide, I was squinting. My hands were behind my back and my hair seemed to match the rhythm of the breeze when the picture was taken. He was wearing a smart suit, his bowler hat overshadowed the right side of his face, keeping his features mysterious. The only prominent thing was that he held a cane and he had his other hand in his pocket. I squinted my eyes to see him properly but with no avail.
I went to the same block the next day to see the camera (that was the name of the snapping machine) man. He was taking a picture of two old couples and it was so adorable. I stood beside him as he did and I was unintentionally smiling. I waited for them to finish before asking him the question I came to ask. I asked him about the strange man but he doesn’t seem to remember seeing him. Then he told me to stand again to take a picture of me to add me to his collection of pictures.
A few days later, I went to the same block to run an errand and passed by my favourite coffee shop. I ordered a cup of coffee and sat beside the window. I stared at the passing people and I created random stories about them. One man’s umbrella broke and he was having a difficult time fixing it, so I imagined that there were little mischievous wind fairies teasing him by doing that to his umbrella. That was when I caught a glimpse of him. He was sitting on a table beside the road and he was reading a book. I couldn’t still see his features and got up and headed towards him. He was getting up, he was leaving and I almost ran to him. I stumbled on the leg of one of the chairs and fell. He caught me and as he did the book and cane fell out of his hands. I snapped my head towards his face to take a look at his features. We gazed at each other, my eyes looking into his.
“Forgive me,” I said and dusted off my dress.
“It is fine,” he picked up his cane.
I glanced at the ground and the book laid open on the page he stopped at. I gasped. His bookmark was my picture, the one I took few days back when the camera man told me he needed it for his collection. He hastily picked up the book and snapped it shut. His face flushed with embarrassment.
“Was that a picture of me?” I asked.
“Yes,” he stammered. “You are beautiful- I mean I liked the picture!”
I chuckled, it was adorable.
“Would you like a cake?” He asked me shyly.
“Sure,” I smiled.
He pulled out a chair for me and ordered me a chocolate cake. We sat for what it seemed like forever just chatting, on this tiny coffee table, under the shade of a tree, in that fateful block of the city.
I caressed the picture I held in my hand. It was of me and him that day. Sitting in the coffee shop, smiling and gazing at each other. The camera man was kind enough to snap this memory into a one beautiful picture. A black and white picture, that captured our blazing souls, at that time.