Canadian photographer, physician and educator Zun Lee sounds like a man of a nomadic disposition: since a childhood spent in Germany, he has lived in Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta, and can now be found in Toronto. Zun’s latest series Father Figure: Exploring Alternative Notions of Black Fatherhood, which opens at the Bronx Documentary Center in February, took him to New York city, where, since 2011, he has worked alongside a community of black dads.
Media-spun narrative threads can be swift to position black fathers as absent: Zun’s work is a visual rebuff to that. The men in Father Figure are pictured in black and white, eternally present. One man snoozes serenely alongside his baby girl on a wooden floor, another laughs as his toddler places her feet playfully on his face. Bedtime games, aquarium trips, car journeys, a carry over the Brooklyn Bridge: the mundane moments that punctuate the everyday and the out-the-ordinary trips that make life worth living are documented with a tenderness which conveys the devotion of this group of fathers to their children and Zun’s close relationship with this set of African American families living in the Bronx and Harlem.
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