Rejecting the Deadbeat Dad Stereotype

Photographer Phyllis B. Dooney was introduced to East New York, a low-income Brooklyn neighborhood, by way of a marching band. Rather than running home to a traditional nuclear family, the students she photographed would spend evenings with their aunts, with their grandmothers, or shuttling between their mom’s and dad's separate houses or apartments. Communities like this are often condemned by the media as having broken homes. But Dooney wanted to explore what parenting, specifically fatherhood, really looked like when adults and children alike are grappling with "the long-term societal and psychological effects of mass incarceration, the War on Drugs and the 1980s crack epidemic, and frequent exposure to crime and trauma."

She interviewed and took portraits of these men in their homes, often with their children, and utilized camera obscuras to project the streets into their private spaces. "The men seen here expose how the 'deadbeat Dad' label—often stapled to the American inner-city Black man and men of color in particular—is a gross and counter-productive simplification," Dooney said.

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