Commitment and love; Harry Borden explores the relationship between single parent dads and their children
A love letter to his children, Harry’s latest series Single Parent Dads considers modern masculinity, affection and the role of the father.
- Harry Bennett
- 23 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
With a highly acclaimed history within editorial and documentary photography, Devon-based photographer Harry Borden has since taken a more intimate route in his new series Single Parent Dads, which sees Harry taking portraits of single fathers alongside their children.
The subjects of the photographs have very different stories to tell, some may be widowed and some may be separated. Harry explains that “the reasons they became single parent dads are various, but they are all united in their commitment and love for their children,” affections that Harry also shares. This series comes from a deeply personal place for him, an “emotional space,” directly relating to his own experiences and anxieties, becoming almost a self-portrait despite never being directly featured. With four children, Harry tells us “the most difficult thing I found about splitting-up was the possibility of it having a corrosive effect on my children,” simply put, “they are everything to me.” Subsequently, the series is a love letter to his children, using the abundance of love demonstrated in these photographs as a reflection of his own. A testimony of unrivalled, unburdened commitment to them.
Harry’s striking images reconsider the way masculinity is portrayed, striving to put into society an image of fathers that is caring and positive. “The men in these portraits are the main carers for their children,” Harry explains, arguing that “in a world where Homer Simpson is an archetype of ‘dad’, they confound the simplistic notion of fathers as ridiculous.” Although behind each photograph is a complex, unique story loaded with history and character, what these images achieve is positively distilling the “aspect of masculinity that should be lauded.”
Despite a potential undercurrent of sympathy or sadness, this series acts as a wholly positive force, one hoping to help re-write the depiction of the father figure within popular culture and society. “Each of the 50 fathers I’ve photographed has written about how they became a single parent dad and what they love about fatherhood,” Harry adds, intending to publish a book combining the testimonies and portraits that “reflects on fatherhood and the role men play in their children’s lives.”
Single Parent Dads is also rife with a feeling of alien nostalgia, achieved through a raw honesty shown in the subjects and the comfort they show in their surroundings, despite being unfamiliar to us. Harry deliberately tailored the series in this way in order to “sentimentally reference the family photo album that we all had in our homes before the internet.” This is also technically achieved through the use of a film camera rather than a digital one, as an “aesthetic device” that succeeds in sending us back to rifling through embarrassing photos of ourselves surrounded by family and friends.
It is the theme of connection littered across Harry’s practice, that really comes into its own within Single Parent Dads. Demonstrating how universal and unbiased love is, as well as how innately intertwined we all are, Harry expresses his interest in “interconnectedness and the complexity of reality.” From conducting this series, Harry concludes: “I've come to realise my most important role in life is as a father.”
This mindset has carried across from this project to another titled First Drawn. A collaborative series between Harry and his eldest daughter Polly, it looks at their relationship in the nature and context of creativity. “Whenever we are together, she draws me and I make a portrait of her,” Harry explains “We've had 25 meetings since we started the work at the beginning of 2019, including a Zoom video conference.”
Looking ahead, Harry has another project close to completion; Four Hugs Wide. A series exhibited in January this year that explores the “relationship with the arboreal through encounters with people who love, live and work with trees and woodlands throughout Britain,” it is paired with poetry from Mireille Thornton.
Drawing again from his own story, Harry is also pursuing an interest in his American half-brother Jed, who he never met. Upon research, Harry discovered that he had died in a car crash one year after the only photograph they have of Jed was taken. “He was thrown from the car into a lake, the death certificate said, he drowned in 12 feet of water,” Harry frankly tells us, “I'm thinking of taking pictures of my youngest son as a kind of proxy to explore this strange enigma in my life.”
GalleryHarry Borden: Single Parent Dads
About the Author
After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. Feel free to get in contact with Harry about new and upcoming creative projects.