Photo Essay

Portraits of Fathers

Roeban and Zoe

This portrait series presents in images my personal view of fatherhood. For me, the portraits are about relationships. My essay is a series of brief observations about the relationships I see when I look at the portraits. It is not important that you see what I see. Different viewers may have (and I hope will have) different interpretations of these portraits. Every viewer brings his or her own unique set of experiences to bear upon the interpretation of a photograph. This is what allows the viewer to connect with the image.

Two things stand out in my mind when I look at Roeban and Zoe. While their hands communicate tender affection, their expressions suggest mild disapproval, like the camera has intruded into their personal space.

Mel, Dakota and Kaylee shows us a father with daughters on either side of childhood. Dakota is beginning to pull away, to assert herself as an independent entity. Kaylee is still happy to be the child. Mel seems to accept both of his daughters for who they want to be.

George and Cecilia is about the wonderful optimism of a child growing up in a world of limitless possibilities and the guarded wisdom of a father possessing a hard-won knowledge of the realities of life.

In Walter, James and Mark the boys seem to be focused on life and events beyond the picture frame while Walter is focused on his sons. I didn't think Walter would like this photograph because his face is hidden, but he did. He said that having his face covered placed the emphasis on his boys.

David and Elizabeth offers us a quiet moment between a father and daughter. It is filled with contentment and intimacy.

Darryll, Derik, and Daxon is about a traditional relationship between father and sons. Darryll told me he liked the photograph, because it showed who was boss.

I went to photograph the photographer, David Michael Kennedy, in Galisteo, NM. I asked if I could also photograph him with his son, Jessie. Jessie was busy reading and said he wasn't interested. I shot several frames of David in various places around the house and ended up back in the living room. I posed David on the arm of the couch where Jessie was sitting, and without interrupting Jessie's reading, took the picture. To me the portrait reveals a relationship in which the father appreciates his son as an individual with needs and desires all his own, a relationship where each is allowed to be his own person.

Through his embrace, Kais epitomizes the proud, protective father. But, I see more. There is an edge to his expression and a tightness to his embrace that seems to communicate uncertainty or apprehension.

Ted looks up at Jacque as if to say, "You O.K. up there, buddy?" Jacque does not need to reply. He's just fine.

Two Fathers has got to be one of my all-time favorite portraits. It is filled with pride, bravado and genuine affection. I love the fact that the males all have such serious expressions, and only the young girl is smiling.

24 responses

  • Zerina Phillip

    Zerina Phillip said (13 Oct 2008):

    I just had a chance today to read your story/essay. Very touching. Wish more fathere can read it. Thumbs up for the fathers who let you take there photos.

  • Laura Hartley

    Laura Hartley gave props (12 Nov 2008):

    This is a charming and sweet story - beautifully written and photographed; profound. Lovely observations, well reflected by the images. Congratulations!

  • Loree McComb

    Loree McComb   said (3 Dec 2008):

    A hearty congratulations on having this story published - Fabulous work, Wonderful subject & touching photos.....well done

  • Hector Ortiz

    Hector Ortiz gave props (17 Dec 2008):

    wow...this is so very proud of re the master

  • F. Robert Openshaw

    F. Robert Openshaw gave props (29 Jan 2009):

    I missed this set Charles. An absolutely fabulous collection of photographs with very interesting remarks.

  • Pongsatorn Sukhum

    Pongsatorn Sukhum gave props (1 Mar 2009):

    Wonderful pictures, and great story telling and interpretations.

  • Prathibha Rajkumar

    Prathibha Rajkumar gave props (3 May 2009):

    Totally loved it!

  • Alexandru Iedu

    Alexandru Iedu gave props (19 May 2009):


  • Richard Seah

    Richard Seah gave props (3 Jun 2009):

    Hey Charles, I had not noticed this earlier... Fabulous essay, great images (especially the main one) and congrats on being published.

  • dana io

    dana io gave props (12 Jun 2009):

    fantastic photos

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (28 Jun 2009):

    If there is a better photo essay on JPG I haven't come across it yet.

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (12 Jul 2009):

    Wonderful! Love the read, interpretations and photos. Thanks for the lesson. dp

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (6 Aug 2009):

    What an eloquent & insightful essay Charles! The photos are superb, but I wouldn't expect anything less coming from you!!!

  • Katie Mollon

    Katie Mollon said (7 Nov 2009):

    Wonderful, touching portraits. Our society does not pay enough attention to fathers!

  • Maria L. Ferrari

    Maria L. Ferrari said (15 Nov 2009):

    this is a wonderful work

  • Carol Holmes

    Carol Holmes gave props (24 Jul 2011):

    Wow! Very impressive & inspiring...I am in awe of your photographs and talent! Congrats on getting it published too!

  • The Man Who Isn't There

    The Man Who Isn't There (Deleted) gave props (29 Sep 2011):

    Wonderful essay. Thank you!

  • Davide Simone

    Davide Simone (Deleted) said (7 Jun 2012):

    Wonderful essay. Thank you!

  • Ildiko Laszlo

    Ildiko Laszlo said (1 Nov 2012):

    Wonderful work, I really like the photographs and the insightful and sensitive observations and nuances in your narrative. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • James Wiley

    James Wiley gave props (3 Nov 2012):

    Great choice for a photo essay Charles. Terrific photographs and execution!


    ROCIO GUILLEN gave props (9 Feb 2013):

    Beautiful! You are amazing with portraits!

  • charu ram

    charu ram gave props (19 Jun 2013):

    Beautiful pictures and essay!

  • Lynn E. Harvey

    Lynn E. Harvey gave props (2 Jun 2014):

    Feel blessed to see this, masterpiece..

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen said (5 Aug 2014):

    I love this photo essay that I have read at for the first time and it is truly insightful besides masterfully photographed of fathers with their families..It is my late father's 106th birthday today and I wish there had been photographers around like you when Dad and Mom were alive of our growing up years...So many pictures were destroyed of the years before I was 7 years old due to our house burning down.. Memories lost but not forgotten..An over due congrats from me on your well deserved honor of this photo essay getting published when JPG was a magazine.

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