There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Your Mother Looks Good…
Who’s Your Daddy?
As Shafer’s First Law of Journalistic Thermodynamics tells us, copy can neither be created nor destroyed. And so it is with photographs as well. Thus, images that were once spur-of-the-moment snaps at a family gatheringinnocent, artless records of fleeting importare now repurposed for the Age of Irony for use in Web logos, album covers, corporate ad campaigns…everything and anything, including Your Mother Looks Good… and Who’s Your Daddy?
Tim Mikkelsen and Phyllis Wright-Herman, operating with their friend Bob Williams as MikWright Ltd., have raided their family albums, appended cheeky captions to pictures of their relatives and themselves being themselves throughout the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, and produced this pair of arch little books, an extension of their line of greeting cards.
On their Web site, they explain their mission thus: “Sometimes it’s the hair, the plaid sportscoat or the wrong pumps. Other times, it’s the queer nature of a photo. Whatever it is, you can bet we’re gonna call you on it!”
And call them on it, they do. Such as when an incompetent photographer caught some poor schlub in flair trousers from behind as he was scratching his behind. The MikWright team felt moved to add the caption: “Feeling a little anal?”
Now, if you know who the guy in the picture is, or if you are the guy in the picture, this might be big yuks. It is obviously greatly amusing to the creators. But most readers are not as familiar with Uncle Howard and Grandma, so the joke falls a bit flat.
A preponderance of the captions are on the butt-scratching levelor put incongruously bitchy comments in the mouths of undoubtedly unbitchy people. Maybe I was just having a bad day, but I flew through the two tiny books quickly, unhampered by having to stop and catch my breath from laughing too hard.
Unlike Marvin Heiferman and Carole Kismaric’s I’m So Happy, a superior picture book that also uses pre- and postwar photographs,
neither Daddy nor Mother boasts a story line. It’s all so randomand the captions feel random, too. With a few minutes, you could come up with something just as good. And try though it might, the material never rises to the level of the
anonymous classic Who Farted? That book contained no text at all other than the title, which was implicitly asked of a series of movie stills from the silent era. Simple, stupid, truly hysterical.
However, Daddy and Mother can be enjoyed the same way the authors did before they decided to get greedy: Just stare at these strange, silly, goofy photos and wonder. Because they capture a black-and-white world from not that long ago that has long vanished. In fact, it exists only in Web logos, album covers, corporate ad campaigns…You can scan these pictures for your own ironic project. CP