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The Photographer

By , London, United Kingdom
Of the few things Olivia Hammersmith left out of her will, there was a camera. The camera was not a fancy camera, just your usual digital device, but full of pictures. There were hundreds, thousands even, filling up the camera’s memory; and in all those pictures, the girl is never to be seen. She took pictures of everything and everyone, every day and every night; she never seemed to stop.




The early pictures are of sweet things, things she must have thought beautiful; roses, birds, bees, shoes, trees, stone carvings, dogs, cats, scarves, rivers, art, and so on. She seemed to want to hold everything beautiful in a photograph, as though not photographing it was wrong. She takes pictures like most people breath. She must have taken the camera with her everywhere, and had it at hand always, so as to not let one sweet moment escape. Slowly, but surely, the photographs change. The change is fast, like she’s realising something.




She takes pictures of trees stripped of their leaves, smashed glass, a child’s grave, a bruised hand, a stone angel melted away by the rain, a ripped scarf, and more. She seems to have noticed the ugly things in the world, the bubble she lived in is broken and the real world pours in and drowns her. Some of her photographs are blurry, as though she can’t hold still. As though she’s fighting reality.



It makes more sense now, her suicide. She has noticed the world isn’t a fairy tale; it isn’t all beautiful, sweet and kind. The girl has noticed that not everyone has good intentions. There is a part of me that wanted her childhood never to be broken, for her to continue living in that bubble, to have her isolated from reality. The girl behind the camera seemed so happy then, living in her own little world. I wanted to blame her parents, for not protecting her more. I wanted to blame her friends, for allowing her to notice so fast. But then I figured she was bound to notice someday, she was always looking at everything, always searching for something to photograph; it was just a matter of time.




I had to treat all suicides as a homicide, that’s just a rule. So I searched though all her things, read all her post it notes, scanned her diary and read her text messages. All of them were normal; the usual things teenage girls surround themselves with. The only oddity was the camera, and the pictures on it.




I find I still can’t understand her last photograph. I don’t have an eye for art. I’ll be honest; it all looks the same to me. I’m a police detective; I only care about dead people. Cases slid back and forth across my desk, and cases stoppe being individual over time. I see so many dead faces, read though so many people’s lives, and chase so many killers; that it all becomes a haze in my memory. Yet, after all these years, after retiring still that one case stays with me. Olivia Hammersmith’s suicide haunts me. It wasn’t how young she was, or how pretty, or how ugly her death was that makes me remember her. To tell the truth, I forgot her name after a time; in my mind I called her ‘the photographer’ because, after thirty years on the job, I still remember her pictures. Not all of them, there were too many, in fact only one, the one I couldn’t ever understand. That last picture. The picture of a camera.





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