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‘Fathers’: Beautifully crafted art book defies stereotypes of Black men

'Fathers': Beautifully crafted art book defies stereotypes of Black men
Fathers, a 423-page art book (Photo provided)

Representing an often marginalized sector of fatherhood, Fathers is a 423-page art book edited by Robyn Price-Pierre, which takes an intimate look into the personal lives of Black fathers. Through candid photos taken on their mobile devices, the men featured in the art book’s pages reveal the complexities and beauty of their experiences as fathers in America. With the power and control afforded by technology to capture their most authentic moments, the Black fathers pictured shape their own narratives. Fathers is a normalization of their participation in fatherhood and a broader culture that often views them as an anomaly. A visual narrative, telling stories of what it means to not just be a Black father, but an American father, it defies stereotypes.

The idea that these men are invisible in society inspired the design of the book. “Physically the book is large and heavy, purposefully designed to be weighty, to be reckoned with,” says Price-Pierre. “Black fathers, their vulnerability, their humanity are rarely acknowledged in mainstream media and the broader culture. The size and weight of the book is part of the storytelling because like Black fatherhood, it cannot be overlooked.”

With a moving introduction by Jelani Cobb, historian and renowned writer for The New Yorker, Fathers is a tale of love, joy, fear and mortality. “We hope that Fathers lives on the bookshelves of people from all walks of life,” says Price-Pierre. “It’s a distinctly American story. Black fatherhood and the particularities of their experience is as American as apple pie.”

Here’s our interview with Robyn Price-Pierre.

Why did you produce this book?
I don’t take full authorship of this book. The fathers in the book are co-creators because these are their personal images and their narratives. I credit them with trusting me to edit the book. I’m incredibly grateful for that.

The idea for the book was inspired by a number of things. One of those was a conversation with my friend Francessca Epps, who also worked on the project by reaching out to some of the men she knew and asking for and facilitating their participation. We had our kids around the same time, so it was nice to see our husbands assume their new roles as fathers. And they’re both very involved, and their conversations with each other about getting your infant to sleep, to diaper changing strategies were absolutely hysterical. We joked about putting those conversations on YouTube because they were so hilarious. So, when I decided to do a book, it was natural for me to ask for her participation.

On a more macro-level, the fact is that Black men in America aren’t often portrayed in the context of fatherhood by mainstream media, or in the broader culture. And that’s harmful on so many levels. Images matter. Representation matters. And so that invisibility inspired the creation of the book.

What’s the story behind the title?
The title is simple and straightforward. On the cover, the word “fathers” appears in bold letters, followed by a gold period. And that was intentional. There are so many labels that are attached to Black men in American society. And the idea was to strip those labels away. The idea was that these men are fathers … period.

What do you hope readers will glean from reading your book?
The fathers in the book share images from their personal archives and offer the reader a glimpse into so many intimate and beautiful moments. And Jelani Cobb writes such a moving introduction. We want readers to enjoy the visual narrative, as they would any other coffee table book.

Name one book that has most influenced your life. Why?
I have been influenced greatly by the work of James Baldwin, particularly No Name in the Street and The Fire Next Time. The books were written in 1972 and 1963, respectively — and in 2018, they feel timely and contemporary. I always find myself looking to the work of Baldwin to help make sense of the present.

What did you learn from your book?
I learned that if there is something you want to see in the world, then create it. Create with whatever means you have available. Even if it feels like nobody is watching, and that no one will ever see it. There is power in putting your work into the universe.

Fathers is available now for purchase on for a retail price of $30. Turn the pages here in the photo gallery below.

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