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Portrait Project Explores The Meaning Of Fatherhood

Antonina Gorbenko

Portrait photographer Antoine Didienne has captured 50 fathers from all walks of life to explore and challenge preconceived notions about what fatherhood and parenting mean today.

For the San Diego-based Didienne, documentary photography and photojournalism are closely interlinked with any type of work he does — from family sessions to weddings and portraits. Some of Didienne’s idols include Platon, Irving Penn, Arnold Newman, and particularly Stephan Vanfleteren — all of which are known for their powerful, emotive portraiture that draws in the viewer. In an attempt to try long-form storytelling, inspired by the portrait masters, Didienne decided to start a project about fatherhood, titled “Portraits of My Father.”

The project’s goal of photographing 50 different fathers was ambitious. Even so, Didienne knew that he would be “scratching the surface with this number,” but the set deadline and a finite goal made the project achievable. Although Didienne turned the lens to others, he also felt the impact of his project. The biggest surprise for him was becoming closer to his own father, though he also learned that fatherhood has little to do with DNA.

To go from the initial idea to the completed project, Didienne highlights perseverance and tenacity as key factors in making this happen. At times, he had doubts the project will visually resonate with the audience because despite it being a personal project he wanted to share it with a large audience.

The project was intended to challenge how we look and talk about masculinity, love, and fatherhood. He has photographed single dads, dads with special needs, BIPOC dads of all types, of many different orientations and ha has come to question the concept of fatherhood altogether.

The search for an understanding of what fatherhood and parenting mean to Didienne extended beyond the project. His wife of 20 years and he completely flipped traditional gender roles over the course of their life together. He had to get over his own preconceptions of what a father should be doing for his family because of the way he was raised.

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