Dads

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A man gazing at his newborn son.

Peter Santiago holds his minutes-old son, Daniel Darnell Santiago, at the Suburban Medical Center.
(Con Los Padres at National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute)
Paramount, California, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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An infant feeding his father a popsicle.

Dashawn Williams feeds ice cream to his dad Steve Dycus.
(Fathers and Families Resource Center)
Indianapolis, Indiana, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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Little league baseball players in a dugout.

Coach and kid in dugout of Orioles at a Little League baseball game.
(Bay Area Male Involvement Network)
Nicasio, California, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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A father and two sons eating in front of a car in a field.

A. E. Moun, Hmong coordinator at Meld, eats dinner with his children after a day picking vegetables in the fields.
(Meld)
Franklin, Minnesota, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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Parents folding laundry and a boy playing trombone.

Jim and Patty Rosno fold the laundry while their son Gregory, 10, practices his trumpet.
(Meld)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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A boy and his father play violins.

Jackson Whang, three, plays violin with his dad John. Jackson’s ancestors came to the United States in the 1600s; he is a descendent of President Franklin Pierce.
Montclair, New Jersey, 1988.

© Stephen Shames

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A father and son wash a car together.

Seven-year-old Edgar Govea washes the car with his father Jose, a participant in The El Joven Noble Program (The Noble Young Man). The program, which is run by The National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute, helps connect young men to their cultural roots.
(The El Joven Noble Program)
Bell Gardens, California, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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A father points his finger at his son.

James Case disciplines Nick Warner while his son Russell watches TV. James was homeless when he met Nick’s dad, Paxton Warner, so the two men rented an apartment for their families. When James “fell off the wagon,” his son continued living with Paxton. After Paxton died in March, 2001, James cleaned up his act and began caring for both the boys.
(Bay Area Male Involvement Network)
San Anselmo, California, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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A father and infant climb up stairs.

Darnell Poole, 16 years old, crawls up the stairs as his son, nine-month-old Kamari, follows.
(Meld)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2001.

© Stephen Shames

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Men learning to change a diaper.

During Boot Camp for New Dads at Saddleback Memorial Hospital, new dads learn the basics—how to change a diaper, calm a crying infant, and make a warm bottle—from veteran dads.
Laguan Hills, California, 2001.

© Stephen Shames
Stephen Shames

Stephen Shames creates photo essays on social issues for magazines, books, advocacy organizations, and art museums. Two of these essays, Outside the Dream and Pursuing the Dream, were published as monographs by Aperture. A third, Friends of the Children, became a film directed by Shames. His recent projects include portraits of multiracial Americans; “Lost Boys,” a compilation of work spanning four decades; street children; AIDS orphans; children affected by war; and “America Smells Like Fresh Bread,” a look at American values. In 2002, Shames founded the Outside the Dream Foundation to educate AIDS orphans, street kids, and vulnerable children in Uganda and India.

Shames’ images are in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Photographic Arts, The University of California’s Bancroft Library, the San Jose Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He has received awards from the Kodak Crystal Eagle for Impact in Photojournalism, Leica, the International Center of Photography, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Foundation.

Artist Statement

Stephen Shames

“I depend on my dad like a rose depends on water and sun.” Boy, first grade

“When I’m a big daddy, I’m going to blast the leaves out of the gutter, clean up the house, if it’s dirty, and cook for daddy and mommy.” Boy, four years old

Low-income dads are largely absent from public policy discussions. The government, when it intervenes at all, directs its programmatic and financial support toward mothers. When men are discussed, they are often portrayed negatively—as dead-beat dads, for example—while positive programs that assist struggling, low-income dads are rarely mentioned. Society will throw men in jail for not paying child support before helping them acquire a job or the parenting skills that would enable them to provide for their children. 

But many men yearn to be closer to their children, and fathering programs help them achieve this goal by teaching parenting and job-related skills and connecting them with their families and community. Even men society might consider beyond redemption—men who belong to gangs or men who have a record of abuse—can become responsible fathers with the support of parenting programs.

The El Joven Noble Program (The Noble Young Man) in East Los Angeles helps young Latinos develop responsible, respectful relationships with their partners and their families. The program provides practical lessons in the skills required for living independently in the community and fosters a positive cultural identity through the arts and recreational activities. Graduate Jose Govea, one of the subjects in this exhibition, no longer is afraid of hugging his seven-year-old son, Edgar, something that he was not able to do before participating in the program.

Across the country, in Indianapolis, the Father Resource Program reaches out to young, undereducated, and underemployed fathers, helping them to earn a degree, find steady employment, and build self-esteem. The program helped Steve Dycus, photographed sharing an ice-cream bar with his son Dashawn Williams, learn to be part of his son’s life in a close, emotional way.

Meld, a family service organization in Minneapolis, helped Zah Tift, shown feeding his daughter in the car, thrive in his role as stay-at-home father. The organization also reaches out to the growing immigrant community in the Twin Cities region. A. E. Moun, Hmong coordinator at Meld, is pictured eating dinner with his children after a day picking vegetables in the fields.

The images in this exhibition record the success of these programs in bringing fathers and children together, while strengthening families and communities.

Stephen Shames, March 2005

Moving Walls is an annual documentary photography exhibition produced by the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project. Moving Walls is exhibited at our offices in New York, London, and Washington, D.C., and includes five to seven discrete bodies of work.

Since its inception in 1998, Moving Walls has featured over 175 artists whose works address a variety of social justice and human rights issues that coincide with the Open Society mission.

Are You a Photographer?

The Documentary Photography Project is soliciting proposals for our next exhibition, Watching You, Watching Me: Photography in an Age of Surveillance.

Plan a Visit

The Moving Walls 21 exhibit is open free-of-charge to the public from January 29 through October 3, 2014.