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A Photograph Class 11th commerce

A Photograph

About the Poet: Shirley Toulson- He was a writer, journalist, and poet who has also given her services in the Auxillary Territorial Service during World War 2. Through this poem, she tried to explain her loss and remember her mother’s laughing and smiling face when looking at a photograph pasted on the cardboard.


Word meaning:

Paddling; walking; move through the water along the sea coast.

Transient – short-term; temporary

Snapshot – photograph

Wry – ironic; mocking

Silences – a complete absence of sound



The poem is a paean to her mother while she was looking at a photograph pasted on cardboard. The picture shows three girls each holding mother’s hands from the side and it was clicked on a sea beach when her mother was 12 years or so with her girl cousins, Betty and Dolly. 

Her uncle clicked their photograph and the poet was allured by her mother’s sweet face. The sea touched her terribly transient feet which explains that nature remained unchanged but humans are mortal and could remain with us forever. The beach holiday looked like her mother’s favorite memory and she laughed by looking at her as hoe they were dressed. They cherish those memories but felt bad as they all could not relive those moments again.

Now, the poet’s mother had deceased for 12 years and the poet is unable to explain her sorrow for her lost mother. 

1. The first stanza explains that the poet was looking at an old photograph pasted on a cardboard sheet. The picture shows three girls walking on the sea beach each holding their hands. The girl who is standing in the middle is the tallest and oldest, the other two are her cousin and probably younger. The girl in the middle was the poet’s mother and was around 12 years or so at that time. 

2. In the above lines, the poet describes the way the picture was taken.  Her mother’s uncle clicked and told them to pose for the picture. All three stood still to pose for the photograph. Their hair was all strewn over their face and it grabbed the poet’s attention. She mentioned her mother’s sweet face. The photograph was taken long ago when her mother was in childhood days enjoying her carefree days.  The poet calls their feet ‘Terribly transient” as they were young then and now old. 

3. After 20-30 years later, she laughed at the picture and would tell the poet to look at her cousins Dolly and Betty and how they all were dressed for the beach holiday. The poet remembers the beach holiday and she knows that it was the mother’s most cherished memories of the past. While the poet’s most cherished memory was her mother’s smiling and laughing at the picture. They both tried to compensate for their loss. Then the poet says that her mother died 12 years ago the same age as that of the photograph. She was unable to express her grief as death has also silenced her mother.


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