The only thing I could do for him was take his picture. So I heaved my DSLR up—it had to be bulky, to give that touch of authenticity—and peered through the viewfinder, focusing on his face.
Not that I needed to. The camera was perfectly capable of capturing the shot on its own. But this was art, and I, the artist. I had to at least appear to work for my fee.
Through the unforgiving lens, Harun Shamsuddin looked even worse. Despite being powdered over with makeup, his pale, papery skin seemed like it would shred at the slightest touch. The luxuriant wig perched on his scalp made the deep furrows on his forehead look more pronounced. He was dressed in his old lawyer’s robes, now billowing over his shrunken frame.
“You can Photoshop the tubes out, right?” his daughter Mimi asked over my shoulder. I lowered the camera and studied the tubes affixed to him intently, giving the impression of great concentration. There were fewer than most of my other subjects: just one going into his nose, and another dangling out of his arm. The others were all concealed beneath the robe.
“It will be a bit complex, but can,” I replied.
“At least Jaja did a good job with the makeup, ya? So you don’t have to touch-up anything. I wanted it natural, you know? Not like we’re trying to make him look fifty again.”
“Yes, the makeup is very good. But still needs some editing, to balance the colours.” I wasn’t going to give her an excuse to ask for a discount.
Good, good,” Mimi said. “We want to remember Ayah just like he used to be, all dressed up to go to court. We are going to frame your picture big-big and put it right in our front hall.”
I picked up my camera again. Harun seemed to be looking at me through the viewfinder. His breath hissed loudly through the breathing tube. He blinked, the only part of his body that still moved on its own. I clicked.
Leaning back in the seat of my taxi, I examined the pictures on the screen of my camera. My arms and back ached from carrying all this equipment around with me, equipment I didn’t really need.
How did photographers travel with these huge cameras, I wondered. Even the simplest screen could take better 2D photos than this monster I carried around, yet that was not what the clients looked for. They didn’t want someone to stroll in, point their wrist at their elderly or infirm, and capture a few dozen carefully-calibrated, near-perfect shots.
They wanted to see a show: to watch the shot being set up, the picture being taken, the photographer hoisting the heft of the camera and frowning at it with a dissatisfied look as she tried ten or twenty different angles.
“Eh driver, I’m sure you can take a better picture than me any day, right?” I asked.
“My primary function is not photography, Miss. But the taxi is equipped with a camera that is able to take ultra- definition photographs, if necessary. Would you like me to take your picture, Miss?” the taxibot replied.
I rolled my eyes. A gentle purring sounded in my ear. I couldn’t help letting out a sigh of exasperation. It was my mother’s call tone.
Read the complete story in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018. Show your support for contemporary Asian voices. Order your copy now:
For all buyers (except India): Kitaabstore
Dear Reader, Please Support Kitaab!
Help promote Asian writing and writers. Become a Donor today!