“Sandy, 1977” by Frank Siteman

I can still remember, some 40 plus years later, the heat and the ardor of the summer of 1977. It was the summer I fell in love with a young woman who sold cheesecake at the Baby Watson Bakery in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Their cheesecake was so creamy and cheesy that Masters & Johnson certified it as a sensual experience. Sandy was an old soul with sophistication, charm, style and talent… and a sensuality that went beyond anything I could remember or even imagine.

Whether it was love or just an infatuation really doesn’t matter. She was the woman who put blisters on my youthful heart that can still be felt to varying degrees today. Especially today, as I look at this old photo and think back to the time of it’s taking.

We were a couple for only a very short while (a way too short while), but the intensity of infatuation can overwhelm one’s life. It overwhelmed mine. It consumed me.

One enduring memory from this time with Sandy was a late summer gathering with eight of our friends at a remote camp in the woods of northern New Hampshire.

This photograph was taken while provisioning at the lone grocery store in the area.

The look she had was far from a smile. It was the goodbye look that hadn’t grown words yet. I don’t know if she knew she was leaving… leaving me, her friends, her job at Baby Watson’s, the city, absolutely everything.

This was not a Mona Lisa smile.

This was the look of someone who knew something and was holding back a flood of emotion. It was a goodbye smile.

She’d been with this photographer for long enough to know not to say “cheese” when confronted with a camera. She was not a poser and never seemed to know how beautiful she was. She left the area less than a month later and although we sometimes spoke, I never saw her again.

Sadly, she died in childbirth, her unborn with her, ten years after this photo was taken. A light went out with her passing, but the scarred blisters on my heart still hurt and will always be a reminder of what could have been, but never was.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

This photo contains a great deal of incidental detail from an era in the US (the late 1970s), surrounding a commanding portrait of a young, powerful woman, rings on fingers with cash in hand, at the checkout counter of a small town grocery store. The young, long-haired, bearded, hippie-like youth behind her provides an additional element of the style in keeping with the times, and is contrasted by the man in the striped shirt with close-cropped hair, behind him.

And then there is her look. The look. Intense and immediate.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

This is not the kind of photograph one could easily improve upon, as it was taken on the fly and without set-up or direction. Adding more detail would just clutter the frame, as each article in this image is exactly where they should be and where they were.

Frank Siteman shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Frank Siteman, Winchester, MA, USA

Equipment and settings

Nikkormat, Tri-X exposed at ASA 400 and developed in Edwal FG7 diluted in 9 percent sodium sulphate. Printed on Agfa’s Portriga Rapid ( PRN 111) paper.

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Comments (4):

  1. Desiree Day

    July 10, 2021 at 20:17

    What a great story & photo Frank. I enjoyed every word.
    Thank you

  2. Arnold Watson

    July 18, 2021 at 19:22

    The cash register brought back memories for me. The story was touching and a reminder just how unpredictable life is. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Alexis A MacPherson

    July 19, 2021 at 14:24

    Thank you for the photograph and story to open the heart and mind. We need stories during these times of crisis.

    Do you give memoir classes to the public? Please, let me know.

    Be well and stay safe.

  4. Nick Lyle

    July 31, 2021 at 21:45

    I went through a very similar emotional tsunami in the late 1970s, in the same part of the country. I shot with the Nikkormat until around 2000. Lot’s of resonance in this great photo for me!


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