Get notes, line-by-line explanation, summary, questions and answers, critical analysis, word meanings, extras, and pdf of the story “With the Photographer” by Stephen Leacock, which is part of ICSE Class 10 English (Treasure Chest: A Collection of ICSE Poems and Short Stories). However, the notes should only be treated as references, and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The writer, Leacock, goes to a photographer’s studio to get his photo taken. He has to wait for an hour before the serious photographer calls him into the inner room. It’s clear the photographer is not pleased with Leacock’s face. He says it is “quite wrong” and would look better taken at three quarters full. When Leacock tries to compliment the photographer’s perceptiveness, he is ignored.
The photographer positions himself behind the camera under a covered cloth. He comes closer to Leacock, tenderly holding his face. Leacock closes his eyes, thinking he is about to be kissed. But instead, the photographer roughly turns Leacock’s face in different directions, trying to find the most flattering angle.
The photographer begins ordering Leacock to alter his expressions and pose – close mouth, droop ears, expand lungs, etc. Leacock grows frustrated and confused by the demands. After 40 years of living with his natural face, imperfections and all, he is annoyed that the photographer finds so much fault with it.
Just as Leacock becomes angry and is about to get up, the photographer secretly takes a photo, pleased to have captured his animated emotion. He tells Leacock to return on Saturday to see the proof. To Leacock’s great annoyance, the photographer has edited his eyebrows, mouth, and wants to edit his ears using advanced techniques.
Leacock argues that he simply wanted a photo depicting his true self, so friends and family could remember him after he dies. But the photographer does not seem to understand. Extremely angry, Leacock declares the edited photo worthless and leaves the studio in tears, feeling humiliated.
About the author
Stephen Leacock was a famous Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer and humorist. He was born in 1869 in Swanmoor, England and later moved to Canada with his family. Leacock studied at Upper Canada College and then went on to earn a PhD in political science and economics from the University of Chicago.
Leacock started his career as a teacher and taught political science at McGill University in Montreal for over 30 years. However, he became most well-known for his humorous stories and writings which poked fun at human foibles and eccentricities. Some of his best known works include “Literary Lapses” (1910), “Nonsense Novels” (1911), “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” (1912) and “Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich” (1914).
During the 1910s and 1920s, Leacock was considered the best known English-speaking humorist in the world. His stories earned him international fame and recognition. In 1937, he was awarded the Royal Society of Canada’s Lorne Pierce Medal. To honour his legacy, the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour was established in 1947 and continues to be awarded annually for the best humorous writing in Canada.
Leacock passed away in 1944 at the age of 75.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
(i) The story ‘With the Photographer’ is written by
(a) Katherine Mansfield (b) Stephen Leacock (c) W.Somerset Maugham (d) Alphonse Daudet
Answer: (b) Stephen Leacock
(ii) The photographer looked at the narrator
(a) cheerfully (b) with enthusiasm (c) without enthusiasm (d) indifferently
Answer: (c) without enthusiasm
(iii) The narrator was asked to wait for
(a) 15 minutes (b) 30 minutes (c) one hour (d) 45 minutes
Answer: (c) one hour
(iv) The studio was
(a) well-furnished (b) quite modern (c) dimly lighted (d) very big
Answer: (c) dimly lighted
(v) The photographer had the looks of…
(a) a sick man (b) an angry man (c) a natural scientist (d) a crooked politician
Answer: (c) a natural scientist
(vi) The second visit to the photographer was paid by the narrator
(a) the next day (b) the same evening (c) the next Saturday (d) after a fortnight
Answer: (c) the next Saturday
(vii) The narrator’s face was found to be
(a) quite ugly (b) quite attractive (c) quite wrong (d) very innocent
Answer: (c) quite wrong
(viii) While waiting for the photographer the narrator ………..
(a) read the latest news (b) a journal for the infants (c) listened to the music (d) kept writing something in his diary
Answer: (b) a journal for the infants
(ix) What was the age of the narrator when he went to the photographer to have his photograph taken?
(a) fifty (b) forty (c) thirty (d) fortyfive
Answer: (b) forty
(x) The Delphide is a process employed by the photographer to
(a) add new features (b) remove unwanted feature (c) adjust body posture (d) show attractive teeth
Answer: (a) add new features
The photographer looked at me without enthusiasm. He was a drooping man in a gray suit, with the dim eyes of a natural scientist. But there is no need to describe him. Everybody knows what a photographer is like
(i) Why do you think the photographer did not look at the narrator with enthusiasm?
Answer: The narrator says “Everybody knows what a photographer is like.” This suggests that photographers generally lack enthusiasm when dealing with customers.
(ii) Why did the narrator not feel fit to describe the photographer?
Answer: The narrator says “But there is no need to describe him. Everybody knows what a photographer is like.” This implies that photographers have a common, unexceptional appearance that does not warrant description.
(iii) What was the narrator’s experience with the photographer?
Answer: The narrator’s experience with the photographer was quite bitter and frustrating. He felt humiliated by the photographer’s indifferent attitude and criticism of his facial features.
(iv) What tells you about the appearance of the photographer?
Answer: The narrator describes the photographer as “a drooping man in a gray suit, with the dim eye of a natural scientist.”
(v) How did the narrator spend his time while waiting for the photographer?
Answer: The narrator spent his time reading old magazines/journals like the Ladies Companion for 1912, the Girls Magazine for 1902 and the Infants Journal for 1888 while waiting for the photographer.
He was only in it a second, -just time enough for one look at me,- – and then he was out again, tearing at the cotton sheet and the window panes with a hooked stick, apparently frantic for light and air.
(i) Who is ‘he’ here in this extract? Was ‘he’ at peace with himself?
Answer: ‘He’ refers to the photographer. No, the extract suggests he was not at peace with himself as it says “apparently frantic for light and air.”
(ii) What do you think of the studio where the photographer was to take the narrator’s photograph?
Answer: The studio seems to be a dimly lit and ill-equipped place with just a sheet of factory cotton hung against a frosted skylight to let in light. It did not have a pleasant ambiance.
(iii) What was the photographer trying to do in his studio?
Answer: The photographer was trying to adjust the light entering the studio by “tearing at the cotton sheet and the window panes with a hooked stick, apparently frantic for light and air” before taking the narrator’s photograph.
(iv) What was the photographer’s reaction when he came out of the black cloth draped on the camera?
Answer: When the photographer came out from behind the black cloth draped on the camera, he “looked very grave and shook his head”, suggesting he was not satisfied with what he saw.
(v) What was thought to be the problem with the face of the narrator?
Answer: The photographer thought the narrator’s face was “quite wrong”, implying there was some problem or defect in his facial features from the photographer’s perspective.
“I’m sure it would,” I said enthusiastically, for I was glad to find that the man had such a human side to him. “So would yours. In fact,” I continued, “how many faces one sees that are apparently hard, narrow, limited, but the minute you get them three-quarters full they get wide, large, almost boundless in–“
(i) What was the narrator sure of?
Answer: The narrator was sure that the photographer could make his face appear “better three-quarters full” by employing some techniques to improve the looks.
(ii) “The man had such a human side to him”. What does the narrator wish to convey about the man?
Answer: By saying this, the narrator means that the photographer had the human tendency or quality of wanting to make people look more attractive by enhancing their facial features through his skills.
(iii) How are the faces of the human beings made to look better?
Answer: The narrator says that even faces that appear “hard, narrow, limited” can be made to look “wide, large, almost boundless” if captured at the right angle or with certain photographic techniques employed.
(iv) What is the tone of the narrator when he says that human faces are made to look better?
Answer: The narrator seems enthusiastic and optimistic that the photographer can work his magic to enhance facial appearances when he says human faces can be made to look better.
(v) Did the photographer himself need some improvement in his face or mind? How do you know this?
Answer: Yes, the narrator indirectly suggests that the photographer himself could use some improvement in his looks when he says “So would yours (face).” This implies the photographer’s own face could be enhanced.
“The ears are bad,” he said; “droop them a little more. Thank you. Now the eyes. them in under the lids. Put the hands on the knees, please, and turn the face just a little upward. Yes, that’s better.
(i) Which features are asked to be improved upon and how?
Answer: The photographer asks the narrator to “droop” his ears a little more, roll his eyes in under the lids, put his hands on the knees, and turn his face a little upward to improve his looks.
(ii) Do you think the narrator is happy and satisfied with the photographer?
Answer: No, the narrator does not seem happy or satisfied with the photographer’s constant adjustments and criticisms of his facial features, which make him increasingly uncomfortable.
(iii) Which things other than the ones mentioned later in the context are to be set right?
Answer: Apart from the ears, eyes, mouth position and posture, the photographer also suggests adjusting the narrator’s waist by saying “just contract the waist” to enhance his looks.
(iv) Did all these features of the narrator meet the due approval of the photographer? How do you know?
Answer: No, the narrator’s features did not meet the photographer’s approval even after all the adjustments, as the photographer says “I still don’t quite like the face, it’s just a trifle too full.”
(v) What does it tell you about the photographer’s art?
Answer: It shows that the photographer’s art involves not just capturing the real image, but also transforming and “improving” a person’s looks through various posturing and techniques to meet certain standards of appearance.
“Stop,” I said with emotion but, I think, with dignity. “This face is my face. It is not yours, it is mine. I’ve lived with it for forty years and I know its faults. I know it’s out of drawing. I know it wasn’t made for me, but it’s my face, the only one I have-“
(i) Who is the speaker here? Who is he talking to? What is the occasion?
Answer: The speaker here is the narrator. He is talking to the photographer on the occasion of getting his photograph taken at the photographer’s studio.
(ii) What prompted the speaker to say, “It is not yours, it is mine”?
Answer: The narrator says this in reaction to the photographer constantly finding faults with his facial features and trying to change or adjust them, prompting the narrator to assert that it is his own face.
(iii) What is the tone of the speaker?
Answer: The tone of the speaker (narrator) is one of emotion and dignity, as he explicitly mentions speaking “with emotion but, I think, with dignity.”
(iv) What does the extract tell about the narrator’s present mood?
Answer: The extract suggests the narrator is in a frustrated and indignant mood due to the photographer’s unsolicited efforts to alter his natural looks.
(v) Which idea does the narrator try to convey through the extract?
Answer: Through this extract, the narrator tries to convey the idea that one’s physical appearance is a unique gift that should be accepted as it is, without trying to artificially alter or “improve” it as per someone else’s standards.
The photographer beckoned me in. I thought he seemed quieter and graver than before. I think, too, there was a certain pride in his manner.
He unfolded the proof of a large photograph, and we both looked at it in silence.
“Is it me?” I asked.
(i) Where was the narrator asked to come?
Answer: The narrator was asked/beckoned to come into the photographer’s studio.
(ii) What was the photographer proud of?
Answer: The extract suggests the photographer had “a certain pride in his manner”, indicating he was likely proud of the way he had processed and transformed the narrator’s photograph.
(iii) Both the photographer and the narrator looked at the proof of the photograph in silence. Why do you think both were silent?
Answer: They were likely silent because they were carefully examining and assessing the proof of the photograph, particularly how the narrator’s features had been altered, which was the main point of conflict between them.
(iv) What was the narrator’s reaction on seeing his photograph?
Answer: The narrator’s reaction on seeing his altered photograph was one of shock and disbelief, as evident from his question “Is it me?”, implying he could hardly recognize himself.
(v) What other changes did the photographer want to make in the final finish of the photograph?
Answer: The photographer expresses his intention to “fix” the narrator’s ears and remove them entirely from the photograph using a process called “the Sulphide.”
“Yes,” said the photographer thoughtfully, “that’s so; but I can fix that all right in the print. We have a process now-the Sulphide- for removing the ears entirely. I’ll see if–“
(i) What had not been tampered with as far as the body features were concerned?
Answer: The narrator’s ears were the only feature that had not been tampered with or altered by the photographer in the photograph.
(ii) To which question of the narrator does the photographer say ‘yes’?
Answer: The photographer says ‘yes’ in response to the narrator’s question about whether the ears in the photograph were a good likeness of his own.
(iii) Which features had the photographer retouched to make them look better?
Answer: The photographer had retouched and adjusted features like the narrator’s eyes, eyebrows and mouth to make them look different or “better” according to his standards.
(iv) How do the photographers bring about changes in a photograph so that it looks completely different from the original?
Answer: The extract suggests that photographers use various processes and techniques like “Delphide” and “Sulphide” to add, remove or retouch different facial features in order to significantly alter the original photograph.
(v) How did the narrator express his anger at the photographer later?
Answer: The narrator expresses his anger at the photographer through a bitter rebuke, sarcastically asking him to “dip it (the photograph) in sulphide, bromide, oxide, cowhide” and calling it a “worthless bauble” after all the distortions.
“Coat it with an inch of gloss, shade it, emboss it, gild it, till even you acknowledge that it is finished. Then when you have done all that-keep it for yourself and your friends. They may value it. To me it is but a worthless bauble.”
(i) What is the narrator’s reaction on his photograph in his next visit?
Answer: The narrator is clearly disgusted and furious at how his original photograph has been transformed beyond recognition by the photographer’s techniques.
(ii) Mention at least three different processes with the help of which the photographers change the features in a photograph?
Answer: The narrator mentions three processes used by photographers to alter photographs – sulphide for removing features like ears, bromide, and oxide. He also derisively adds the nonsensical “cowhide” to his list.
(iii) Does the narrator approve of the techniques of the photographers in bringing about changes in the original photograph?
Answer: No, the narrator does not at all approve of the photographers’ techniques to artificially change or “improve” a person’s original appearance in the photograph. He calls the final product a “worthless bauble.”
(iv) Would you support the narrator’s viewpoint or the photographer’s? Why?
Answer: I would support the narrator’s viewpoint because artificially altering someone’s natural looks and features defeats the very purpose of capturing their original identity and unique appearance through photography. The narrator rightly feels that photographers should avoid imposing their own standards of “perfection” on subjects.
(v) Why does the narrator call the photograph a worthless ‘bauble’?
Answer: The narrator calls the heavily altered and distorted photograph a “worthless bauble” because after all the unnecessary retouching and transformation by the photographer, it has lost all resemblance to the narrator’s real appearance and facial features, making it a useless and valueless product in his eyes.
Additional/Extra questions and answers
1. Why did the author go to the photo studio?
Answer: The author went to the photo studio to have his photograph taken. He wanted to leave it behind with his friends and relatives after his death. So, he went to a photographer.
16. “To me it is but a worthless bauble.” Why did the photographer’s touch of technical expertise appear a worthless bauble to Leacock?
Answer: The author wanted to have himself photographed. The purpose was to leave behind the image or picture of his likeness to his family and relatives. It would remind them of him after he is dead. The photo could reconcile his absence or loss to them. But the photographer had retouched the eyebrows, eyes, mouth etc. All these features did n6t resemble the author. In a depressed mood, the author said his ears were almost the same.
But the photographer said he could completely replace his ears using a new technique. When the author saw the photo it was technically sound but when it came to likeness, it was a disaster. The purpose of taking the photo was lost. The poet asked the photographer to do all sorts of corrections and keep it with himself and for his friends as a technically sound photo. But for himself, it was a worthless bauble. The author broke into tears and left the studio.
1. The photographer was a ____ man in a grey suit.
A. cheerful B. drooping C. drowsy D. flamboyant
Answer: B. drooping
22. How did the author describe the final photo?
A. As a masterpiece B. As a fine work of art C. As a worthless bauble D. As an impressive click
Answer: C. As a worthless bauble
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