Magnum Opus

By Ahsan Rajib Ananda

Rony was all by himself, waiting for an airplane to pass overhead as he twiddled the knob of his DSLR* camera. He was sitting on a stool in his balcony. The railings were about waist-high, and one could have easily toppled over. He aspired to be a photographer of extreme proportions, but he believed his magnum opus had yet to be captured. He took pride in his work because it was only photographers who could keep a moment in time infinitely suspended. They stopped not only a tide on an ocean but the very fabric of time from wilting. He just needed to capture one great moment.

None of his photographs had ever been selected for any exhibitions but he was somewhat well known in the community for he was very sociable. He did manage to get a fair number of paid jobs, but not of the artistic kind. He usually got gigs for taking landscape and architectural photography, a lot of them for calendars. Whenever he talked about getting his photos into an exhibition, the curators somehow brushed the topic off.

Even though he made a generous sum of money every month, he was quite jealous of the younger photographer from his university. This person left his studies because he could not afford it, but somehow, he became very well-known. His work was often displayed at the best exhibitions across Asia. He rose to be regarded as a young talent. Everyone seemed to be talking about him. Rony craved that kind of attention, but he was not a peacock, flaunting his talents from a distance, and concealing them in front of others, to establish a fake sense of humility. Zaid was like that, pretended to be humble, but he was one of the most arrogant men. He flaunted and lured people to himself, and then masqueraded as if they flocked of their own accord. 

Rony recalled an event that he would never forget. He was taking photographs near a train station that night. He noticed a man in a black shirt inconspicuously dragging a dog down the rail tracks. Upon closer inspection, he noticed the dog was battered, and almost dying. He stealthily moved towards the injured dog. The man in the black shirt quickly turned on hearing his footsteps and indicated that he needed help. Rony could not see the man’s face clearly as it was too dark and the man wore a hat with a wide brim, but he drew close to pick up the dog. As soon as he touched it, he heard some clicks. The man had taken some photos of Rony reaching out to the dog. Rony also noticed there was a machete on the ground beside him. The man laughed out loud and said in a strange, muffled voice, “Haha, the dog butcher of Kamalapur!” as he stared at the photo in the camera’s viewfinder.

Rony got up and tried to attack the man with bare fists, but he stopped in his tracks when he heard a train approach. He did not even get the time to get the dog off the tracks. The two men saved their own lives, as the blood of the dog splattered all over them. Rony heard a few more clicks as he stared dumbfounded at the train that passed by. He felt enraged and helpless. It was late but he noticed a few people, staring at them. The man beside him had disappeared too. He later discovered the man’s identity when “The Dog Butcher of Kamalapur” was exhibited. The photo showed Rony’s back, so his own identity remained a secret.

But with time, Rony did become better known. He met Zaid more often, mainly at big exhibitions across town. Their encounter from that night etched Zaid’s smug and proud face into his memory, and he had always hated the sight of him every time they met. For Zaid, on the other hand, Rony was almost non-existent. Zaid did not reveal the identity of the so-called butcher, and neither did Rony, for obvious reasons. Rony did not know what to do about Zaid, he simply silently abhorred that man.

He still did not know why Zaid’s was so cruel to the dog. Obviously, he had not wanted to save him. Perhaps, he wanted to take a photo, but Rony’s presence had interfered. As usual he turned it to his advantage. Rony often wanted to ask him, but he hated him, and he was scared that he would harm him more, not actively, but perhaps do something that would cause Rony to harm himself. Rony looked down on himself partly for the unreasonable fear he experienced.  

Rony detested Zaid’s shrewd characteristics, and his drive to rise to the top. Zaid was not a talented photographer, and he lacked the pristine technic that Rony possessed, yet he could speak with his photography.

Rony could not give up, he decided.  He needed to shoot the greatest photo he had ever taken. He had decided to rise above notions of morality like Zaid because if it meant he could win against Zaid, it would be worth it. However, Rony could not bring himself to shame or hurt to another person or even an animal. If guilt and shame were to come at a certain time in his life, it should not be of an act harming others. An artist must make sacrifices to achieve greatness, and he knew what he could do. He needed to get over his fear as only the ones with the courage to make sacrifices achieve greatness.

So, Rony turned on the timer of his camera and turned the lens towards his face, holding the camera as far as he could with his two hands. He presses the shutter button. 

When the timer started ticking, 10, 9, 8…, Rony jumped off the balcony. He would have captured a moment perhaps no artist could ever have done. That would be his magnum opus — an expression that could only be captured within a brief frame of time. His fame would be posthumous; a man like Zaid would never be able to top this. This would be the greatest photo of the year.

Falling was not easy and uniform, and Rony realised his mistake as his camera fell from his grasp. It was exactly that moment that he experienced extreme fear for the first time in his life. Even more fearful than death was the sight he had under his eyes, a man with a camera taking continuous shots of his fall. 

Zaid had again won that year, he has captured an expression no photographer ever achieved before; he calls it, “A Portrait of Terror”. He said the photo embodies the terror of facing death, and he hoped it would make people to think twice before committing suicide. Zaid planned a series of anti-suicide campaigns, which were later acknowledged internationally as a humanitarian. 

The photograph is still known as Zaid’s magnum opus. Even though Rony failed to create a masterpiece himself, he had become one.


*D-SLR: Single-lens reflex (adjective): Denoting or relating to a reflex camera in which the lens that forms the image on the film also provides the image in the viewfinder


Ahsan Rajib Ananda is a music teacher and composer from Dhaka, who writes poetry and fiction as a hobby. He completed his Masters from University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh with a focus on Creative Writing.



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