By: Peter Sessum
For the past year I have been getting this question a lot, or more accurately, “what is the deal with Quackers?” Since I am about to do more with him I thought I would get ahead of the story and explain who he is and where he came from. Hopefully, people will find the whole thing as amusing as I do.
Quackers, and his narrative, started in a very innocent place. Last year I was taking a photography class and one assignment was to take 100 pictures of something. It could be anything. Taking so many pictures would help the photographers learn about setting, lighting and angles. One person chose a pashmina and another chose a bottle of wine with an interesting label. For the assignment I decided to use something small, something that could fit in a jacket pocket or in my camera bag. So I chose a rubber duck. Interestingly it was harder to find a rubber duck than I thought it would be.
Eventually, I ended up at Babies ᴙ Us and found a bin full of them. After selecting one I carefully compared others to that one and found three additional ones that looked exactly the same down to the finest detail. I was surprised how much they can vary in fine detail. Mostly in the different painting overlapping. Satisfied with my duck and extra replacements, I walked out with my purchase and thinking about my first “photo shoot” with the duck.
I was meeting a friend out at a bar and brought one rubber duck with me. Despite a drunk guy trying to steal the duck it was an overall uneventful night. I had a number of pictures of the duck around the bar and thought it was a good start of the week’s assignment. When I got home I selected a few to edit and from that night I ended up with two I liked. They both were the duck floating in a tumbler glass of water next to a beer and then in front of the beer facing the camera. The two shots were at least a dozen shots apart on the camera but when placed next to each other it made me think that the duck was quietly drinking in one image and then was in my face asking “You got a problem?” I thought how he must be a jerk when he is drinking and Quackers was born.
That became the narrative, Quackers is a jerk. So as I continued to take pictures, I took Quackers along. It added a wrinkle to all my photography assignments. How could I work Quackers into the shot in some way? Sometimes it was easy, to just place him in the way before taking a shot but sometimes I had to be creative. How do you add the duck into the shot when taking pictures of the moon? And he has some depth, but like an onion, when you peel back a layer the next one is just as stinky. I wanted to make him kinda bigoted but I had to find a group that no one really hates or there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to hate them so Quackers hates the Danes. Whenever it comes up people usually get a confused look in their faces as they try and rack their brains for a good reason to hate them.
There are a few themes.
Quackers peeking into the camera when a shot is being taken. It is his “what are you doing” shot. The joke is that by now he should know what a camera is and how it works.
Quackers messing up a perfectly good shot by staying in the way. There are some great landscape shots that he ruins because he refuses to move so that other photographers can take pictures.
Quackers doing something that you are clearly not supposed to do. Like climbing on a thing that has a sign that says “do not climb.”
I like the everyday ones where Quackers is doing something that annoys people. Like leaving only a little bit of milk in the jug and putting it back in the fridge.
The best is when other people get in on it. Either posing with him or bringing him on a trip and taking pictures for me to post.
No matter the setting, I just enjoy the creativity that I have to use when taking pictures of Quackers and it makes me a better photographer to have to figure out a way to work him into the shot. Now the humble photo assignment has taken on a life of its own. Quackers has his own Instagram to document his adventures and I will be sharing his misadventures on Tumblr and Twitter as well. Right now one of the projects is to photograph him at as many places in the book 100 Things to do in Seattle Before You Die as I can.
If, for some reason, you are inspired to find your own muse (and a few people have) I only ask a couple things. Don’t use a rubber duck. Find any other item to use. And second, give it a different personality. Just copying what I am doing is not being inspired, it is plagiarism and stealing. There are plenty of great photos that can be taken when the muse has a good personality. Have fun with it, but make it your own. As for me, I am going to continue seeing where his adventures lead. I hope that people enjoy his journey as much as I do.