Indecent Exposure

by Rachel Green

On the wall of the study, next to the shelves of leather-bound encyclopedias forty years out of date (where the entry for computer still shows a building-sized machine with less memory than a modern mobile phone) hangs a portrait of my grandmother. It is not the sepia tones that date it but the heavy glass - a daguerreotype plate with a backing of yellowed card - that shows a slightly blurred image from a too-long exposure and leaves a smile too broad for a human face. Sophia - my grandmother - is looking past the camera at something that amuses her, my grandfather, perhaps, or my Great Aunt Lydia of which no photographs were ever taken. It is a moment of joy in an otherwise secretive life captured on film and left as an heirloom for her unknown offspring, though my siblings never survived to see it. She couldn't have known that I would be able to see behind the deliberate blur to her feet, so often hidden beneath heavy Victorian skirts, and the evidence of her mother's sordid little secret. I inherited much from Grand-Mama; the photograph, the chest of drawers in the bedroom, a china tea service and the cloven hooves so cleverly hidden by slow exposure.


Rachel Green, author of A Place of Peace and Solitude, is an English woman who spends far too much time writing about demons.