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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

The Photographer

Visibility was poor as I descended the Lakeland fell. A figure emerged from cloud, camera in hand.

‘Not a good day for photos,’ I ventured.

‘On the contrary,’ he replied, ‘I’m taking some beach scenes for a cosmetics advert.’

I gestured at the impenetrable mist.

‘Oh, that’s no problem,’ he assured me. ‘It’s all digital these days. I can add the sand, sea and palm trees on the computer.’

‘Why do you come up here, then?’ I asked.

‘I like hill walking,’ he answered. ‘Anyway, taking a few shots on the fells makes a change from photographing the darkness in my cellar.’

‘Have you been doing this long?’ I wondered aloud.

‘Nearly fifty years,’ he revealed. ‘I’ve worked for all the big papers and magazines. You often see my work in National Geographic.’ He pointed over my shoulder. ‘I took the underwater shots for their recent article on the mid-Atlantic trench, at the top of this hill.’

‘In the mist?’

‘No, at night in the rain.’ He aimed his camera upwards and pressed the shutter several times. ‘Though I think my best work has been for NASA.’

‘What did you do for them?’

‘Lots.’ He paused for a few more shutter clicks. ‘I’ve done all the Hubble space telescope images. Pictures of structures in deep space are easy because they don’t have to look like anything in particular.’ He opened the camera and replaced the memory card. ‘Then, of course, there was the faked moon landing in sixty-nine.’


‘Oh God yes. It was far too difficult to get a man to the moon. Mind you, in those days there was no digital photography, so I had to photograph on a set to get negatives to work on.’

‘You went to America?’ I questioned.

‘No,’ He gestured towards the valley, ‘did them all on my vegetable patch. If you look next to one of the feet of the lunar module you can just make out some asparagus. I’ve always been surprised that the conspiracy theorists didn’t pick up on that.’

‘Did Neil Armstrong come to Cumbria, then?’

‘No need. You can’t see who’s in a spacesuit. They were all shots of George, the landlord of the Dog and Duck. Anyway, must be going.’ He began to walk uphill. ‘The cloud is thicker higher up, which is just right for some shots I need of the Brazilian rainforest.’

He disappeared into the mist, the clicks of his shutter fading into silence.

By chance, I was staying at the Dog and Duck. I now understood the significance of the moon landing photographs on the walls of the bar. That evening, I studied the ones of the lunar module in more detail. When you know where to look, you can see the asparagus.