Book Review by Mel: The Photographer’s Truth, by Ralph Josiah Bardsley

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the photographers truth ralph josiah bardsley

The Photographer’s Truth, by Ralph Josiah Bardsley
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: July 1, 2016

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Ian Baines seems to have it all—a career as a hotshot software programmer in Silicon Valley, a beautiful wife and family, a nice house in an upscale San Francisco neighborhood, and a past that he’s mostly managed to forget. Life takes an unexpected turn for Ian when he finds himself in Paris for a three-month work project where he meets former fashion photographer Luca Sparks. The unlikely friendship grows and Ian sees a new side to life as Luca takes him on a journey through the glamorous and lustrous Paris nightlife. But something strange starts to happen during their adventures in Paris—the two start to fall in love. Both battle their own demons on the road to self-discovery, ultimately learning how to come to peace with their feelings and their pasts.


M/M Pairing
Gay Contemporary Fiction


The lasting impression of that week, the first thing I still remember about it after all these years, isn’t sleeping with Vince. It’s the Mapplethorpe print in that little gallery. That photo made me realize what a thin line we walk between being lost and really alive. That was the dance, that was what the title “Couple Dancing” meant to me. The dance was the combination of beauty, confusion, and chaos that makes life interesting. But you could see from the faces of the subjects in the picture, having one element out of balance can drive us slowly and completely mad, even in the arms of someone we love. Oddly enough, life is the most beautiful, the most fulfilling when we’re the closest to that line between lost and alive.

When I read the author’s first book, Brothers, earlier this year, I already recognized what a wonderfully talented writer he is, so I jumped at the chance to read The Photographer’s Truth. Although it didn’t seem possible, it sounded even more fascinating to me.

I fear you’ll have to read a lot of quotes in this review 😉 I just couldn’t choose…

Ian lives that line between lost and alive. When he was a student he once set out to live a unique life after his own making, but he somehow missed his chance and took fear’s path instead like so many of us do. He now has a good job in San Francisco, he is married, and he’s got two great teenage sons, doesn’t miss a thing and is quite happy. He nestled himself into this predictable and comfortable life.

However, when a job takes him to Paris for several month, this life is disturbed and he loses his footing.

He goes to Paris to help prepare Môti fashion house set up a museum.

The attic was a glimpse into what the world was like at different points in the past—what people dressed like, what they found beautiful, how they viewed life. As one of the first fashion houses of the 1900s, photos of Môti collections started to appear in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as early as the late teens. Môti clothed the elite of post war Europe, showing up on everyone from wandering Russian aristocracy to jazz hall starlets and British expats.

It is in this setting that he meets famous photographer Luca Sparks.

I’ve listened to people talk about Paris, either directly to me or in overheard conversations, and the sense of mysticism is universal, though some smile happily when they talk about memories of Paris and others seem to wane and grow smaller, as if eclipsed by some trace of fear or passion. Paris finds what is deep inside us and steers us on a path towards it, for she is the goddess of coincidence. We can bury what we like, but things have a way of surfacing on their own there, as the city brings people together on the wind of chance encounters.

The friendship and later love that springs from this chance encounter is both beautiful and hard to witness.

We spent a lot of time with Ian and Luca getting to know each other; meeting in cafés, enjoying Paris’s night life, talking about life, the world and everything. But while they both awaken something lost in each other, it comes with a lot of guilt on Ian’s side as well.

I really– like Really– appreciate that the fact that Ian is cheating on his wife is not glossed over. In fact, his relationship and time with his family was so real that it partly hurt to read, because losing your partner of so many years – for whatever reason – can happen to everyone, and I found this to be most realistic and relatable. I felt with Ian and thought his struggle was very understandable. However…

I was not who I had built myself to be. I was someone else. Luca had awakened that, and now it would never rest.

The end of the book was so very fitting and I like at which point the author leaves us. It’s a happy ending, though not, in any way, a fairytale-like one.

This is a wonderful book.

I found it to be touching – I smiled and cried – and I think that it is very, very romantic. The Parisian setting is idyllic and palpable, the themes of photography and identity prominent and interesting. Because of its beauty, the writing both lulls me in and gets me excited.

I wish the author had already written more books because I can’t wait to read what he comes up with next. In case you were wondering… Highly Recommended!


Born into an Irish American family in a small town outside of Boston, Ralph Josiah grew up as a Coast Guard brat, wandering around helicopter hangers in New Orleans, Cape Cod, coastal North Carolina, and Sitka, Alaska. He currently resides in San Francisco and Boston with his husband and partner of more than fourteen years, Dana Short.

Ralph Josiah holds a bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College and a master’s in communication from Emerson College. He has a passion for good books, exciting travel, and long runs—where he happens to do most of his thinking. He is inspired by things that are different and believes that grace happens when and where we least expect it.

Ralph can be contacted at rjbardsley AT gmail DOT com or at his website.

You can purchase The Photographer’s Truth from:

Bold Strokes Books
Amazonwordpress hit counter
Barnes & Noble

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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