Why are you passionate about this project?
There has been a lot of media attention on police violence, especially against black men and boys over the past few years. Black men are typically portrayed as “violent”, “dangerous”, and “criminals” in the media, which continues to perpetuate racial bias and a culture of fear within our society. These are not the black men I know. The black men I know are loving, nurturing, hard working, and like any other parent, they just want to raise their children in peace. As an artist, I felt a responsibility to fight back against those negative media messages by using my art. By taking photos of dads with their kids, I wanted to change the narrative about black men so that people can start to see them for the amazing men that they really are.
Tell me about your intro to photography and what connections can it be traced back to your project?
I bought my first camera in 2010, and I’ve been in business as a family photographer since 2012. I considered several different approaches to this particular project, but in the end I knew the most sustainable option would be to focus on what I know best: lifestyle family photography. Especially when working with dads, I find that I’m able to get the most joyful and authentic expressions when I ask them to interact with their kids for family photos.
How important do you feel projects like these are in the photography world?
Social justice issues are extremely important to me. So important, in fact, that I started a private Facebook group for other photographers to collaborate and support each other as we take on social justice photo projects. I believe our current political climate makes these projects even more urgent right now. In this current culture of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, I believe that photography and art are absolutely crucial to anyone who wants to rediscover the Truth. It can be really overwhelming and confusing when there are so many mixed messages put out by the media, but a simple photo can speak volumes. This project has been really centering for me, in my ongoing pursuit of Truth.
What were the challenges for you in the beginning with the project ?
As a white woman wanting to engage in a photo project about black men, I wanted to be very careful not to do or say the wrong thing. I took two years to really flesh out the goals and specifics of the project before I made a public announcement about it, and during that time I also spoke with several trusted friends and mentors in the black community. I spent a lot of time on educating myself on the Black Lives Matter movement as well. I did a lot of reading about social justice issues and I attended local events to learn from leaders in the black community. I paid special attention to criticisms from the black community about the potential for harm from “white allies”. I really wanted to develop a project that would not only emphasize a positive narrative about these men, but would also be welcomed and embraced by the black community. I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries in any way.
Also, on a much smaller scale, scheduling has been another challenge. As a work from home mom and small business owner, it can be difficult to tackle personal projects in a timely manner. This is not a paid project, and even the process of applying for art grants takes time that, frankly, my three year old doesn’t always let me have. Nevertheless, I keep chugging away! I know that in our fast-paced social media culture, projects can lose public interest if they don’t happen quickly. But at the same time, I want to let this project develop at its own pace. It is changing me as much as it giving back to others, and I don’t want to rush that process.
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Lucy Baber is a lifestyle newborn and family photographer in the Philadelphia area. Her work can be followed at the following links: