The third chapter of Dragon Teeth follows Johnson as he learns to take photographs. You know, like he said that he knew how to do since his youth in the previous chapter. He gets twenty lessons in wet plate photography for the “outrageous sum of fifty dollars”. It’s odd that he would be miserly now, since he stands to lose a thousand dollars if he doesn’t go on this trip. Photography proves to be much more difficult than Johnson anticipated, and he struggles to muster up the patience to learn. Johnson looks down on his teacher, calling him “nothing but an uneducated shopkeeper putting on airs”, despite his clearly superior knowledge of photography. As time goes on, Johnson is determined to learn the art of photography, even celebrating his final assessment of “nearly acceptable.
Once again, the photographer Mr. Lewis is a bit of a trope of a character. But I want to emphasize: tropes are not in and of themselves bad. Tropes are a good springboard for a character. It’s true that everything has been done before, and nothing is without some kind of inspiration. I think that if Mr. Lewis shows up later and gets more detail to his portrayal, he can be a good character. Mr. Lewis has a name, and isn’t simply “his teacher”, and Johnson’s education in photography has an entire chapter. I doubt that Mr. Lewis is a one-off character.