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Photographer and Philosopher by August Strindberg

 

Once upon a time there was a photographer. He was a splendid photographer; he did profiles and full-faces, three-quarter and full-length portraits; he could develop and fix, tone and print them. He was the deuce of a fellow! But he was always discontented, for he was a philosopher, a great philosopher and a discoverer. His theory was that the world was upside down. It was plainly proved by the plate in the developer. Everything that was on the right side of the original, now appeared on the left; everything that was dark, became light; light became shade; blue turned into white, and silver buttons looked as dark as iron. The world was upside down.

He had a partner, quite an ordinary man, full of petty characteristics. For instance, he smoked cigars all day long; he never shut a door; he put his knife into his mouth, instead of using his fork; he wore his hat in the room; he cleaned his nails in the studio, and in the evening he drank three glasses of beer.

He was full of faults!

The philosopher, on the other hand, was perfect, and therefore he nursed resentment against his imperfect brother; he would have liked to dissolve the partnership, but he could not, because their business held them together; and because they were bound to remain in partnership, the resentment of the philosopher turned into an unreasonable hatred. It was dreadful!

When the spring came they decided to take a lodging in a summer resort, and the partner was despatched to find one. He did find one. And one Saturday they departed together on a steamer.

The philosopher sat all day long on deck and drank punch. He was a very stout man and suffered from several things; his liver was out of order, and there was something wrong with his feet, perhaps rheumatism, or some similar disease. When they arrived, they crossed the bridge and went ashore.

“Is this the place?” asked the philosopher.

“A very little walk will take us there,” answered the partner.

They went along a footpath, full of roots, and the path ended abruptly before a stile. They had to climb over it. Then the road became stony, and the philosopher complained of his feet, but he forgot all about his pains when they came to another stile. After that, all trace of the road disappeared; they walked on the bare rock through shrubs and bilberry bushes.

Behind the third fence stood a bull, who chased the philosopher to the fourth stile, where he arrived in a bath of perspiration, which opened all the pores of his skin. When they had crossed the sixth stile, they could see the house. The philosopher went in and immediately stepped on to the verandah.

“Why are there so many trees?” he asked. “They interrupt the view.”

“But they shelter the house from the strong sea-breezes,” answered the partner.

“And the place looks like a churchyard; why, the house stands in the centre of a pine-wood.”

“A very healthy spot,” replied the partner.

Then they wanted to go and bathe. But there was no proper bathing-place, in the philosophical sense of the word. There was nothing but the stony ground and mud.

After they had bathed the philosopher felt thirsty, and wanted to drink a glass of water at the spring. It was of a reddish-brown colour, and had a peculiar, strong taste. It was no good. Nothing was any good. And meat was unobtainable, there was nothing to be had but fish.

The philosopher grew gloomy and sat down under a pumpkin to deplore his fate. But there was no help for it. He had to stay, and his partner returned to town to look after the business during his friend's absence.

Six weeks passed and then the partner returned to his philosopher.

He was met on the bridge by a slender youth with red cheeks and a sunburnt neck. It was the philosopher, rejuvenated and full of high spirits.

He jumped over the six stiles and chased the bull.

When they were sitting on the verandah, the partner said to him:—

“You are looking very well, what sort of a time have you had?”

“Oh! an excellent time!” said the philosopher. “The fences have taken off my fat; the stones have massaged my feet; the mud-baths have cured me of my rheumatism; the plain food has cured my liver, and the pine-trees my lungs; and, could you believe it, the brown spring-water contained iron, just what I wanted!”

“Well, you old philosopher,” said the partner, “don't you understand that from the negative you get a positive, where all the shade becomes light again? If you would only take such a positive picture of me and try and find out what faults I do not possess, you would not dislike me so much. Only think: I don't drink, and therefore I am able to manage the business; I don't steal; I never talk evil of you behind your back; I never complain; I never make white appear black; I am never rude to the customers; I rise early in the morning; I clean my nails so as to keep the developer clean; I leave my hat on so that no hairs shall fall on the plates; I smoke so as to purify the air of poisonous gases; I keep the door ajar so as not to make a noise in the studio; I drink beer in the evening so as to escape the temptation of drinking whisky; and I put the knife into my mouth because I am afraid of pricking myself with the fork.”

“You really are a great philosopher,” said the photographer, “henceforth we will be friends! Then we shall get on in life!”

 
 
 

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