Cheesy photographs are a rite of passage

Published 9:10 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My mother has done it to me. I’ve done it to my daughter. My daughter has done it to her children. It’s a rite of passage.

What is it that we have done? We’ve shown embarrassing photographs of our offspring, often with accompanying and unflattering commentary.

My mother, who supposedly loves me, used to pass around a Polaroid (those types of photographs were all the rage in the 1960s) showing me sleeping with Bugs Bunny — in stuffed-animal form. In the color photograph, I was more than 3 years old but less than 10 years old. She considered that photograph “cute.” I consider it child abuse.

By the way, that photograph is hidden away at my place.

I’ve got a color photograph (circa summer 1977) of my daughter, now 36 years old but about 16 months old, looking like a drowned, blonde rat in one of those small, plastic swimming pools. With her is her Uncle Paul, looking like a wet, bespectacled scarecrow. I’ve also got a color photograph of her being held by Spiderman when she was about 2. If you think Spiderman is colorful in his red and blue, you should see my daughter in her bright yellow and blue outfit, complete with an appliqued daisy. She looks like hippies dressed her. Well, my hair was a bit long in those days.

My grandchildren love to see those photographs. They better watch their laughter. It wouldn’t surprise me if some photographs of them surface in the coming years as they reach dating age. Even if their mother cuts them some slack, grandpa might not. After all, that’s one of the privileges of being a grandpa, embarrassing your grandchildren because it’s a rite of passage.

And with all the nephews, nieces, great nephews and great nieces in the family, I’ve got an untapped source of targets for the coming years. And with cellphones coming equipped with cameras these days, opportunities abound for taking those “cute” photographs.

What will the answer be when someone at the next family reunion asks, “Where’s Mike?”

He’s on the back porch choosing a photograph to send worldwide over the Internet, post on Facebook and include it with a tweet on Twitter.

Can you say “Cheese?”


Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. These days, he wonders why photographs of him depict him with a graying moustache.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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