On my Father’s Birthday + Zun Lee’s Father Figure Project

Zun Lee's Father Figure Project

Yesterday I read an article on PetaPixel and learned about street photographer and physician Zun Lee. His work is tender and beautiful examining the complexity of what it means to be a father. The way he describes his craft and style is far better than I can do, so here is a snippet from his website.

As a clinician, I’m trained to work with people at their most vulnerable who grant me permission to invade their privacy. As a result, I have always had an intense interest in the dynamics of trust and control when it comes to that interaction. At best, it can reveal a unique connection, a kind of truth that would otherwise not be foregrounded.

When a human being connects with another and – even if for a split second – relinquishes a certain level of control, it is fascinating that complete strangers can share an alternate truth about themselves that was hidden not only to others, but perhaps even to themselves. It is in these moments that individual emotion transcends the personal realm and gains universally understood context.

Learning about his Father Figure project struck a deep chord with me as I read about it yesterday and looked at all the pictures. Today is my father’s 84 birthday. As I’ve mentioned before, my father has Alzheimer’s and it is absolutely heartbreaking. He still knows who I am, but is very confused most of the time and our immediate family is shaken to the core.

We do the best we can and focus on the time that we still have with him. I am so grateful for my father. The older I get, the more I see how lucky I was to get him as my Dad.

The timing of seeing this Father Figure project and trying to be a good daughter, especially on a day that was always important to him and our family has made me even more emotional. I was in CVS last night and saw a father and daughter out shopping together. I had a pang of sadness, then remembered that I had that. At least I had it.

Lee’s project focuses on photographs that break the cruel stereotype of the absent and uncaring black father and instead shows the strong and loving bonds between black men and their children.

Growing up I never thought of myself as a Daddy’s girl. Me and my father have definitely had our moments of major disagreements. We still do. Plus I’m very close with my mother. But a few years ago, one of my parents’ friends referred to me as a Daddy’s girl. I started thinking about it and maybe I am. For the time that I have left with him, I will relish the term.

I’m getting ready to bake my father’s favorite birthday cake and will have dinner with him, my Mom and my brother later today. Luckily, he still likes my baking! Though when I bake the cake now, I just do one layer. We all are watching our weight!

I find that what saves us all, is keeping a sense of humor and being grateful for so many wonderful memories of my childhood. Even as my father is losing his memories bit by bit.

If you have a few minutes, I hope you’ll watch the video about Zun Lee. He reveals his own family struggles and you can see more of his amazing work.

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Screenshot: Vimeo

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