By Gregor Ehrlich
A few years ago, my mother developed an interest in photo pairings — images that looked like other images. She developed an eye for odd similarities. Sometimes she would photograph a farm boy because his nose looked like former president Bill Clinton’s, or a checkout girl who looked like Vermeer’s girl with the pearl earring.
Once she had me float on my back in bay water, to resemble a photo of her father, the rabbi, taken in the Dnieper River, in Poland, right before the Nazi invasion in 1939. When she found a photo of my great-aunt Ida in the old country, feeding chickens in the yard of a farm, she was very excited. Aunt Ida was of the era when cameras were still new and suspicious, and family lore has it that Ida always refused to have her picture taken. My mother decided to restage this rare photo, with herself in the starring role. She spent about three months getting the outfit together — sewing a dress and getting the right shoes. Rather than procuring live chickens (our days of owning livestock had ended with a move to the suburbs), she used a papier mâché ornamental chicken that my father had bought at a garage sale, probably someone’s souvenir from a holiday in Mexico. She got the right kind of basket, and then even put seeds in it.
I took the photo, and then reworked it in Photoshop to better resemble the older photo. When I handed her the print, she found it hilarious that I had labeled it “My Mother Is Crazy.” [From “A Life in Chickens,” Guilt and Pleasure, Issue 3, Summer 2006]
What do men learn from their mothers? What do daughters learn from their fathers?
Is personality transferable across gender lines?
Gregor Ehrlich is a writer, artist, animator, and producer.