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Wait For Me, Daddy

Wait For Me, Daddy is a photograph taken in New Westminster at the start of World War II by a photographer for BC newspaper The Province. In the last five or ten years, the Province has been pushing as hard as it can to turn the photograph into some kind of Canadian icon, shining up their own reputation in the process (they're a pretty shitty tabloid paper nowadays).

The Mayor of New Westminster, Wayne Wright, decided to turn the photograph into a war memorial to be erected on the site where it was taken -- in Hyack Square at the base of 8th St. I've never been thrilled with the idea. I don't think such a sentimental photo strikes the right note for a war memorial, and I find the Province's constant and shameless self-promotion disgusting. I found myself thinking that if only I could draw, I'd like to do an editorial cartoon expressing exactly why I didn't approve of it. Then I figured 'fuck not being able to draw' and started doodling anyway. Ten minutes later I had this:

Naturally I also wrote the following letter to the Province, and New Westminster's two local papers, the Royal City Record and the News-Leader:

I have a confession to make. I really don't like Wait For Me, Daddy.

I'm not saying it's a bad photograph. It certainly captures a dramatic moment. I just don't understand why the City of New Westminster is pushing it so hard. It's completely inappropriate.

Think about other iconic (wow, have we heard that word a lot lately) Second World War photographs. The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, the sailor kissing his girl in Times Square - what did they have in common? They celebrated the end of war.

Why is it only Canada that chooses to honour a photo that celebrates the war's beginning?

Worse, Wait For Me Daddy takes going off to war and makes it cutesy and mawkish. There's a reason why this photo was used for recruitment purposes; but today, it just leaves a bad taste.

I'd never heard of or seen Wait For Me Daddy 10 years ago. Only recently does it seem that people have been trying to turn it into a Canadian icon. I suspect that it was dusted off a few years ago when someone at the Province found it in their archives and thought it could be used to polish up their journalistic apple a bit.

Every story I've seen about this photo seems to be the Province trying to create a legend they can sell. It has the air of war-profiteering, and it's ugly to see.

I think the city blew it on this one. I'm going to wince every time I see the statue downtown.

Both the Record and the News-Leader published this letter more or less as written. But just to add the perfect, ironic twist to the story, when the Province published it, they not only cut the second half of the letter entirely, but they changed the opening line to read "I really don't like famous 1940 Province photo 'Wait For Me, Daddy'". You have to admit, that's pretty pathetic. Like I said, their self-promotion has been shameless and relentless.

Anyway, the unveiling took place on Saturday October 4th, and I went down to take some photos.

The setting, in Hyack Square

The sculpture really only looks good from the front. From another perspective, it becomes hollow and ugly, a perfect metaphor for itself.


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November 2015