With the Photographer by Stephen Leacock
In With the Photographer by Stephen Leacock we have the theme of insecurity, anger, appearance, confidence, acceptance and control. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed forty year old man the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Leacock may be exploring the theme of insecurity. The narrator while sitting in the photographer’s studio begins to read some magazines. It is through his reading of the magazines and seeing how other people look that the narrator begins to feel insecure about his appearance. This may be important as Leacock could be suggesting that the narrator is unrealistically comparing himself to professional models. People who have had make-up applied, proper lighting and clothing prior to their photograph being taken. If anything the magazines make the narrator insecure when the reality is there is no need for him to be. It is also noticeable that the photographer takes a dislike to the narrator’s appearance (his face) judging it to be wrong. This too may be important as it suggests that there is a standard being set by the photographer and that the narrator because of how he physically looks does not meet that standard. Just as there is comparisons being made by the narrator to the people he sees in the magazines. Likewise the photographer is making comparisons or judging the narrator solely on his appearance.
It is also noticeable that the narrator begins to do as he is instructed by the photographer. What should have been a simple process of taking a photograph becomes something of a nightmare for the narrator. If anything the photographer is attempting to change the narrator and mold his image into something that pleases his eye rather than accepting what is real. That being how the narrator actually looks. It is also interesting that at first the narrator agrees with everything that the photographer says and this would further suggest that Leacock is exploring the theme of insecurity. It is as though the narrator lacks the confidence to stand up for himself and tell the photographer that he is unhappy with the route that is being taken by the photographer. However the narrator does begin to become more confident as he begins to realise how ridiculous the photographer’s requests are. It is only after losing his confidence and then regaining it that the narrator ends up standing up for himself.
How confident the narrator becomes is noticeable when he returns to the photographer’s studio the following Saturday. He realises that the photograph that has been taken of him looks nothing like him. This angers the narrator as he was simply looking for a photograph that would show his likeness and nothing more. He accepts that he may not be to everybody’s liking when it comes to his physical appearance but is angered by the changes made by the photographer. The photographer has retouched the photograph so much that the narrator does not recognise himself. If anything many reader might suggest that the photographer is working of a template that he deems acceptable. Unfortunately the photographer’s template is not pleasing to the narrator nor should it be. Without directly saying it to the narrator the photographer by retouching the photograph is suggesting that the narrator does not meet the requirements that he thinks are required on how a man should look. If anything the photographer is attempting to push his perception of beauty onto the narrator. Something that further angers the narrator. It is as though the narrator is in shock however he does not let go of his anger telling the photographer to keep the photograph.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader realises just how upset the narrator is when he begins to cry. It is as though the narrator knows that he is fighting a losing battle. He has been judged solely by his appearance by the photographer whose job was to simply take a life like photograph. Something because of his belief system in how a man should look. He was unable to do. It might also be a case that Leacock is suggesting that at the time the story was written men and women had very little control. At no stage does the narrator persuade the photographer that he just wants a photograph that looks like him. The photographer is more interested in retouching the photograph than listening to the narrator. This may be important as Leacock could be attempting to highlight the fact that the photographer is not allowing the narrator a voice. In reality the narrator’s tears could be due to the fact that not only is he angry with the photographer but he may also be frustrated. Throughout the story the narrator has been judged by the photographer based solely on his appearance.