Dave Engledow, Takoma Park, Md. photographer/first-time and self-proclaimed “World’s Best” father, knew that he wanted to be as creative as possible in documenting his daughter, Alice Bee’s, childhood. Now, three years in, he’s published a book — “CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD’S BEST FATHER” — out May 2014.
“I was one of the many Facebook users complaining about the overabundance of baby pictures in my feed, so I was determined to do something different,” Engledow said in a Q&A when asked about how he got the idea for the photos. “I had not originally intended to insert myself into the images, but soon after Alice Bee was born, I was inspired (probably due to lack of sleep) to portray what new fatherhood felt like to me at the time—I wanted to show the cluelessness and exhaustion felt as a new father, while poking fun at myself. This inspiration turned into a shot of me holding Alice Bee like a football while distractedly squirting her milk into my coffee mug.”
From photos on Facebook to friends demanding them to make a calendar of images, and now a book, “the response from friends and family was almost overwhelmingly positive,” Engledow said.
The challenges? Well, cooperation from a 3-year-old tops the list (although, fruit snacks work wonders as bribes, Engledow admits.)
“Sometimes it’s really easy, particularly when we are doing something that she actually wants to do, like dropping things into the toilet or pouring syrup on pancakes,” Engledow said.
Most of the time, his wife Jen is involved, brainstorming concepts and making sure Alice Bee is safe and happy, unless she’s away on assignments for the Army. But even when she was away for a one-year tour to Seoul, they’d review the raw images together and make edit decisions via a Google hangout.
The total time to make an image is anywhere form 8 to 20 hours: Engledow said he shoots his and Alice’s parts separately, which can take an hour or two. To shoot his part, Engledow sets the camera to fire every 6 seconds for about 30 minutes, or “until I nail the expression that I want.”
“The longest part is editing, which can take me anywhere from 5 to 15 hours.”
For Engledow, the project is a vehicle to “play out the worries that I have as a new father and to parody the father I hope I never become.”
“..my initial intent with these images was to create something a bit darker that subverted the cutesy, overly-poignant clichés you see in a lot of traditional baby portraiture. I never intended for this project to be a heartwarming, feel-good story. Ironically, what a lot of people tell me they take away from these images is the obvious love that I have for Alice Bee—people see beyond the silly, satirical character I portray in these images and instead see a father who has decided to spend his precious free-time creating something special and unique for his daughter. I guess that’s pretty cool, if unintended and unexpected.”
As for how similar Engledow is to the “world’s best father,” he says ” There are plenty of ways that I’m very different from the World’s Best Father character. He drinks a lot; I rarely drink (I’d like to, but I’m just too exhausted at the end of the day). He puts Alice Bee in dangerous situations involving flames, sharp objects, and treacherous perches; I am overly cautious about that sort of thing. He knows how to dance to Gangnam Style; I couldn’t do it if my life depended on it.”
I think the shots that show me being distracted (reading the Sports page, absorbed in my laptop/ iPad) are the ones that hit closest to home and portray my biggest fear as a father—a tendency to get absorbed in things and not pay enough attention to those around me.”