Five Guys, One Cockroach: The Copco Lake Five Project

Memory  /  Time Travel
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It started like any other timer self portrait: John Dickson pressed the shutter release, then ran to take his place with his buddies. It was Fourth of July weekend, 1982, and the teenagers were vacationing at one of their parents’ family cabin in California. One of them held up a jar holding their pet cockroach, stocked with a butterscotch candy for food, and a picture of actor Robert Young for company. And that was it.

Five years later, back at the cabin again, John Wardlaw, one of the five who’d gotten interested in photography, suggested they make the portrait a tradition, and took over behind the camera. And so the The Five Year Photo Project of the Copco Lake Five was launched.

Watch us lose hair and gain forehead, gain and lose and gain and lose weight. There are reasons we all decided it was better to take the photo with our shirts on.

— John Dickson,

By 2012, the unpresuming group’s tradition had came to the attention of the internet, and went viral, picked up by the Today Show, CNN, the Huffington PostSunrise Australia (!) and more. Wardlaw is making a documentary about the project.

No word about the cockroach.

2012. From left to right: John Wardlaw, Mark Rumer, Dalas Burney, John Molony, and John Dickson. All five have committed to the next portrait session in 2017.

Next up: Because I Make Up the Rules: A Life and a Death in Polaroids 

Also in the series Magic vs. the Bony Guy: Six Lifespan Projects That Speak to Us All

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