A photographer makes space for new fathers to share their experiences

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Love, joy, and isolation are among the varied emotions experienced by the dads featured in Sophie Harris-Taylor’s latest series

Sophie Harris-Taylor’s most recent series Present Fathers embodies her recognisable style: soft, naturally-lit photos, full of baby skin plus textured faces, muted colours and gentle vulnerability. Her portraits of fathers with their babies or toddlers radiate such tenderness that it may not be inconceivable to experience pangs of broodiness while searching through them. Quotes from her subjects sit together with the images. Many express unparalleled love and pleasure, and a new understanding and appreciation. One father marvels about, “how deeply you get to know, connect and relationship […] Only after becoming a dad did I understand many things that the mum did for me”.  

However , there is also a night to be found within some of the quotes. Several of the fathers deal with feelings of isolation, psychological struggle, and suicidal ideation. The disclosures add further depth and significance to the series. It becomes evident there is a shared experience of an absence of community and support for brand spanking new fathers. And also a difficulty for brand spanking new fathers when it comes to articulating the particular negative emotions bound to arise after such a life-changing occasion as becoming a parent.  

Present Fathers , then, is normally partly an attempt to help new fathers experiencing ‘taboo’ thoughts feel less alone plus frustrated with themselves. By means of collaborating with the fathers, and reflecting on her own partner’s experiences, Harris-Taylor recognises how damaging the mum and baby-centric method can be. For example , many apps and groups aimed at infants exclude fathers, and health care visitors often have the perspective that, ‘if mum plus baby are happy, after that everyone is happy’.  

Nevertheless , the willingness of the featured fathers to open up can be promising. Harris-Taylor does not take too lightly the labour and burden of having a baby as a female, having experienced this very little. However , she also desires the work will remind mothers to check on their partner too. When questioned about the upcoming of fatherhood, Harris-Taylor feels there needs to be social evolution such that men experience higher inclusion and regard as a parent, equal in their responsibility to bring up a child. She champions the optimism and accountability depicted in the final quote of the series: ‘Unlearning is harder than it seems, but we must make a switch if we want our children to be better and go further. ’

Below, we share an array of quotes and images from Harris-Taylor’s series, which was designed by Natasha Freeman.

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Bola, Jasmine and Ocean. From the series Present Fathers © Sophie Harris-Taylor, with styling by Natasha Freeman.

“Knowing that I possess a biological offspring is amazing. The feeling was out of this planet, especially when [Jasmine] popped out in my presence — it was extraordinary. Ocean’s birth doubled the pleasure. It wasn’t a case associated with ‘ah – I’ve got one anyway’. It felt like a new cycle and a very different experience. ”

John and Esme. From the series Present Fathers © Sophie Harris-Taylor, Natasha Freeman.

“If We are to be completely forthcoming, limitless sleepless nights, a partner who was impacted by postnatal depression and juggling a stressful freelancer career with absolutely no outdoors help was a challenge. Also i suffer from depression and nervousness and the endless arguments with my partner began to are able to me. I became greatly depressed to the point where I had developed to re-attend a crisis centre for those who wish to kill themselves. This also induced a slight sense of shame and embarrassment, as despite supposedly having a wide social circle of emotionally mature friends I had no one to talk to. ”

Joe and Eli. From your series Present Fathers © Sophie Harris-Taylor, Natasha Freeman.

“Nothing anyone tells you prepares you regarding [fatherhood]. It is very much a case of being thrown in at the deep end and it can be isolating at times. But , don’t be afraid. It’s in our family genes to be paternal, most of it is instincts and gut feeling — you don’t have to be a genius to be a father. ”

Caspar and Sid. From your series Present Fathers © Sophie Harris-Taylor, Natasha Freeman.

“It is all fairly wild. To tell the truth, being overcome with feelings so much is not something I used to be prepared for. There have been lots of occasions where I just get happy and cry after i think about Sid. She is much more wonderful than I actually could have expected. It makes you understand why your parents love you and tried to protect you. It really is hard to understand that kind of love and emotion until you experience it yourself. ”

Nathaniel and Volkswagen. From the series Present Dads © Sophie Harris-Taylor., with styling by Natasha Freeman.

“Support for new fathers is a tabooed notion. If you don’t have it within your circle or from your father then it’s practically non-existent. There does not seem to be the same community for new dads as there is intended for mums. I think most of the support I received was through conversations. I encourage just about all fathers, particularly young or even new, to be more open and communicate about how they are coping or not coping. While parents, we are all sharing a great responsibility to guide a whole new generation of humankind and shouldn’t take that gently, and being open about this could take our experience from something overwhelming in order to something incredible. It’s also imperative to our growth like parents and the relationships we now have with our children that we do the work to break and solve any generational curses we might have inherited from our very own fathers. Unlearning is more difficult than it seems but we have to make a change if we want our children to be greater and go further. ”

Capella Buncher

Capella Buncher is really a freelance writer and award winning photographer from London. The girl work has been exhibited in Please Mind The Display, an exhibition of work produced under the guidance associated with Sohrab Hura, and featured in print and online with the BBC, The Sunday Situations, Firecracker and Magnum Photos. In the summer of 2020, Buncher won the Ian Parry Scholarship.

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