Father's Day special: An Indian lensman and a Swedish photographer capture the new-age evolving fatherhood
It is common knowledge that Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June every year. But not many of us know that it was championed by a woman called Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, who wanted to honour her father, William Jackson Smart, a civil war veteran and widower for raising her and her five younger brothers after their mother passed away. It wasn’t easy for Dodd to get Father’s Day nationally recognised in the United States; she spent half her life on this mission, and today, individuals around the world mark the day by celebrating their fathers and fatherly figures in their lives.
Two photographers Johan Bävman and Avinash Gowariker in tribute to this international day have brilliantly captured fathers from Sweden and India in their photo series, Swedish Dad and Indian Dad. The series explores how fathers in both the countries view the modern role of the father in contrast to the stereotypical father parental role set by patriarchy. These dads are shown taking their children to school, playing with their children and bathing their pets. The Indian Dad series also features a photograph of Bollywood Superstar Shahrukh Khan with his son AbRam and choreographer Farah Khan’s husband Shirish Kunder with his kids promoting gender equality.
“By showing the everyday lives of fathers on parental leave, through pictures, I’ve focused on men who’ve chosen to put bonding with their children and families before their jobs and careers. I’ve also sought to show the universally valid and loving aspect of parenthood, regardless of whether you’re a mother or father,” Johan Bävman tells Indulge on a call from Sweden.
“I started realising a father’s role when I became father nine years back. I wanted my son to relate to me. I took paternity leave for nine months and was taking care of my son all alone. There was no help, which made me realise how important it is to be with the child. I wanted to start a conversation that why only a few men take these leaves,” Johan adds.
On the other hand, Avinash chose to photograph Indian fathers because he was fascinated to see today’s fathers participating in day-to-day activities with their kids. “Honestly, my father never did what I have captured in the pictures. I am not complaining, in fact he gave me the best gift of my life — a camera and allowed me to do photography. I had a phenomenal bond with my father but we never went to buy vegetables, we never cooked together. I found all these things fascinating so I captured fathers who do these kinds of things,” shares Avinash, revealing that he loved Shah Rukh Khan and his son AbRam’s bond.
While for Johan the series aimed to celebrate Swedish fathers who opted for paternity leave to be with their kids and promote gender equality, for Avinash it was more personal. “With this project, I hope to inspire more men to begin reflecting on their roles as fathers and partners, which is an important step towards a more gender-balanced society. It wasn’t easy at the first place because I am taking their pictures when they are not perfect and it should be normal. Parenthood is not about being perfect,” says Johan, and Avinash adds that in India things are more equal at least in urban India. “I had no thought behind it. I don’t have kids so when I see fathers doing regular things with kids I find it fascinating,” he opines.
Although, both the photographers have been lauded worldwide for their series, Johan shares that he had his share of criticism as well. “I was asked why am I highlighting a small percentage of fathers who are at home, why not women who have been doing this job for ages. And moreover, this is not only a man issue, but it’s hard for women as well to let go child care and rely on husband to take care of their child completely,” he states.
The 45 pictures of men with their children, doing regular things like bathing and feeding them, playing with them and a dad lying down with a baby in his arms look quite regular but what catches the eye, is the strong bond between father and son, they celebrate.