Do you want your picture taken? Grab a digital camera and you’ll have it in an instant. But just a mere one hundred years ago, a photograph was a treasured object. Having your picture taken meant a trip to the photographer’s studio and spending considerable money. Today’s story is about a portrait photographer, his studio and his assistant in Winona, Minnesota in 1907.
The Flickering Light tells the story of Jessie Ann Gaebele, a 15-year old girl who has received a camera as a gift. Photography has captured her interest and she is keen to learn more. Jessie is also a strong-willed girl from a family with little money. So she and a friend apply for a job with Mr. Frederick John Bauer, portrait photographer.
Mr. Bauer, known as FJ, has operated a successful studio for many years. His wife, also named Jessie, is familiar with the photography business so that FJ would like her to help in the studio. But she is busy with their three children and she also fears the chemicals used in developing. In fact, the chemicals have caused a problem: FJ has acquired mercury poisoning, common in his business. On occasion the poison flares up and he is bed-ridden, unable to work. This is the reason that he is in need of an assistant.
Jessie and her friend are hired and trained to run the studio. Jessie loves every minute of the training and work. But another “love” enters the studio: FJ has become smitten with Jessie, and she is with him to some degree. Although Jessie is young, she see the dangers that this presents, especially when they are working alone in the studio.
I don’t want to give away the story, but do know that the book is a light, clean read. It’s a good story and even better when one realizes that it is a fictionalized account of the life of the author’s grandmother. What I found most interesting was the story of this young woman, 100 years ago, and her ability to find a profession and work it it although society frowned upon such activity for her sex. I also enjoyed hearing about photography and the style of it 100 years ago. There are great pictures in the book, all taken by Jessie herself.
This is the first book in the new Portrait of a Woman series. Jane Kirkpatrick has written many other popular books. We have 10 of her other books and we will undoubtedly get other books in this series as they come out.
Check the WRL catalog for The Flickering Light