Black Fatherhood is Infinite
Every fatherhood experience is distinct and Black fatherhood is no different. That's something photographer Julien James, a dad of a 3-year-old son from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, hopes to capture in this photo series, showcasing the wide and varied experiences of Black fatherhood. "Like all fathers—and specifically the ones in this project—my fatherhood journey is unique to me," says Julien James, which is the name he uses professionally, his first and middle name. "Black men and fathers do experience some similarities, but we aren't bound to the same experience because we are Black… Black is not monolithic; it's infinite—and so are our experiences, thoughts, and perspectives."
One thing all Black dads do have in common though is being tasked with teaching their kids to be conscious of their race in society. "We are constantly aware that in America, the justice system continuously fails us, authority figures continuously harm us, and the color of our skin endangers us," says Julien James. "All we want is a safer, more equitable world for our children."
The racial unrest and injustice in society does not however keep Black fathers from endless joy with their children. For Juien James, raising his son, Maison, has taught him a lot about himself and brought him a newfound happiness. "Maison has this light to him, this joy that's contagious; it's almost as if he knows exactly who he is already. I'm just blessed to witness it," he says. "And a little more selfishly is how much he's taught me about myself, about life, about giving, and about love."
And like other fathers, Julien James says he depends on others to help him grow and develop as a parent, something he feels is important for dads to talk about. "Parenting is an ever-changing job; no kid is the same, and each stage of life is different. I think this forces us to rely on our partners or communities," says Julien James. "It should be a two-way street. My partner has taught me a lot directly and indirectly, and I liked to think I have done the same."
With each father in the series, you will see a glimpse into the beauty of Black fatherhood and how fathers experience happiness, trials, growth, and everything in between throughout different ages and stages of parenting. Between the images and words about fatherhood these dads give, it's clear Black fatherhood differs for all, but always brings about the same joy and light.
In a society that criticizes Black lives, Julien James wants to use this piece to "change the standard of what Black fatherhood looks like across the world and allow Black fathers to control our narrative." Black is beautiful, Black fatherhood is beautiful, and the joy fathers experience with their children is infinitely beautiful.
Visual Editor: Jillian Sellers
Photographer: Julien James
Art Director: Julia Bohan Upadhyay
Designer: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong