By Matthew Oxley
Darin Mickey’s Stuff I Gotta Remember Not To Forget takes its name from a bulletin board. We get to see this bulletin board within the series; the words in question tucked between a picture of a catholic priest praying and Ziggy the comic strip character affirmatively pointing their way. In a series full of images that you just want to stare at, whilst not immediately understanding why, this picture is one of the most intriguing. But I was determined to understand it. I had to figure out its lure. Then it hit me. It wasn’t the priest, or Ziggy, it was the notes; each one with a different scribbled reminder, a different task that couldn’t, apparently, be forgotten. “Finish taking up carpet floor”, “Add polymer sealant to Chrysler”, “Pick up trash”, “Cut down trees”. All such mundane, everyday undertakings, but that is precisely the reason this image - which at first feels numb and subdued - becomes so compelling in its delivery. It’s the image that sums up the series, a series, which is endowed with that most seldom of photographic qualities: the ability to connect with each and every one of us.
Presented to us in Mickey’s inimitable, deadpan, comatosed style, Stuff I Gotta Remember Not To Forget takes us into the world of his father, Ken Mickey. Behind each image lives an intimacy which feels within our grasp, but which is ultimately never quite reachable. It’s a feeling that will be an established presence within many father and son relationships and is converted into a visual aesthetic with both a run-of-the-mill comfortability, but also an edge which keeps us guessing.
We meet Ken stooped over a black briefcase in a sun drenched street, his silver striped tie hanging vertically from his throat, his body forming an almost crippled figure in the harsh shadow cast beneath him. From this seemingly inadvertent encounter, his world is slowly, if not ever fully, unveiled to us. We see his suits hung tightly together, we see him at work in a cave-like warehouse that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond movie, and we see him at home, doing the dishes, relaxing in the garden. The point here, is that Ken Mickey could be anyone’s dad; that in itself, mixed with a style of photography that is both personal and imaginative, creates an open door for the viewer to walk through.
The need for artists to turn their craft towards their own family is not a new phenomenon, and it’s not a surprising one either. Salvador Dali, aged just 21, painted numerous portraits (arguably his best) of his sister Ana María Dali. In more recent times, Christopher Anderson’s ‘Son' eloquently scrutinises not only his journey as a new father, but also his role as a son himself. Virginia Beahan’s ‘Photographs from Home’, a poetic and delicate observation of her family in New Hampshire, USA, must be one of the most visually stunning series that explores the relationships between different generations of a family. Then we have Phillip Toledano’s emotional and at times heart wrenching ‘Days with my father’, an examination of his time spent with his ageing father after the death of his mother. Turning our artistic sights on a family member or friend or lover then, seems like a natural step in the on-going fight to understand our lives.
All images © Darin Mickey
Stuff I Gotta Remember Not To Forget is published as a hardback full colour book by J&L Books. Available from Photo-Eye.