Dad Duty

Chris Facey talks about The Dad Duty Project – a photography series celebrating Black fatherhood

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/60 sec at F3.6, ISO 800

Before Chris Facey’s best friend Jaquonne became a dad, he did not understand why Chris had to say no to so many things. Chris had children early in life; his daughters are 13 and 16. After Jaquonne’s daughter, Kehlani, was born in 2020, he better understood why Chris couldn’t go out in those early years.

“It’s been really cool watching this shift in him, from my friend with no kids, with all of this ‘freedom’ – to now. Everything is now about his little one,” Chris remarks.

Jaquonne and Kehlani are among several dads and kids that Chris is photographing in his Dad Duty Project. Chris loves watching his best friend grow along with his daughter. “It’s really good being a fly on the wall,” says Chris, about documenting their father-daughter relationship over the past three years.

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/60 sec at F3.6, ISO 800

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/350 sec at F2, ISO 6400

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/350 sec at F2, ISO 6400

In 2018, after a public outcry around poor representation of Black fathers in a high-profile advertising campaign, Chris wanted to produce more images of Black dads caring for their kids. He wished to share moments of fathers going through everyday life with their children, to counter prevalent media images that erase or negate the presence of Black fathers.

“I’m a Black dad, my friends are Black dads, my brother’s a Black dad, I have a Black dad,” Chris exclaims – frustrated that positive representation of people like him is still so limited. He wanted to showcase the fathers in his life, including dads who are intentional in their parenting even if they do not live full-time with their kids. “It started as a way of celebrating dads, especially Black fathers that are there no matter the circumstances. Maybe you’re not in the home with them, but you’re still showing up.”

He turned the camera on himself, his friends, and a growing network of Black fathers. From this, the Dad Duty Project was born.

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 and FUJINON XF16mmF2.8 R WR, 1/125 sec at F2.8, ISO 6400

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/60 sec at F5.6, ISO 12,800

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/600 sec at F8, ISO 1600

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/125 sec at F2, ISO 4000

The Soldier with the Camera

Chris was a young father in the US Army when Jaquonne, called Jay by his friends, gave him a gift that changed his life. One day, when Chris was on leave and visiting Jay, his friend mentioned how much he had paid a photographer for a project. Chris had always been creative and wondered if he could start taking photographs professionally. Jay gave Chris an old Fujifilm camera, which he took back to his barracks – leading him to start experimenting and figuring out how to produce quality images.

“Before I picked up a camera, I didn’t know what photography could do.” Chris admits. “I still thought it was just nice pictures of people and things.” The old camera ignited his interest, but Chris wanted updated equipment, and realized he would need interchangeable lenses to help him achieve better results. So, he applied for a military credit card and went to the store on his base.

“I had just enough for the camera, a 50mm lens, an SD card, and a really small bag,” Chris recalls. He needed a way to pay off the credit card, so he started taking maternity shoots for military families. Before long, he wouldn’t go anywhere without his kit. People called him ‘The soldier with the camera.’

As his time in the army came to an end, Chris wasn’t sure what he would do next. He was considering either studying to be a dental hygienist, or going to school for photography. At that point, he was growing in his craft, inspired by the black-and-white work of photographers like Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, and William Eugene Smith. He followed his heart and chose art school.

“I felt it was a good thing for me to show my daughters. I can’t go around telling them, ‘You can be whatever you want to be. Try everything you can try,’ if I haven’t even attempted to do it myself.”

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/125 sec at F2, ISO 4000

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/500 sec at F8, ISO 1000

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/500 sec at F8, ISO 1000

Dads on the Street

Many of the fathers and children in Dad Duty were Chris’s friends before the project began. Some of them are people he met on the street and they often become friends. He’ll go out with his camera and approach fathers with their children, show them his website on his phone, and ask if they’d like to be part of the project. He offers to send people the images he makes – and sometimes he’ll provide prints on the spot.

“If I have my Fujifilm printer on me, I’ll just print it from the camera on the INSTAX and give it to them right there in the moment.” Some people will say they aren’t interested, but he gets a lot of yeses from dads who are happy to participate in the project.

The relationships Chris is forging and sustaining through Dad Duty are helping him and other dads navigate the ups and downs of fatherhood. “We talk to each other’s kids about things to try to build that village of sorts. I think that’s been a good thing with this project. I’m creating a pool of resources for other dads; there are tools I can give to them,” he enthuses. Some fathers Chris meets will ask if he’s ever faced a particular challenge, and he’s now able to say, “‘No, I’ve never dealt with this, but I know someone who did – here’s what he told me.’”

Chris enjoyed shadowing Habiyb, another professional photographer, as he and his daughter Noir’Aliss were out taking photographs. Noir’Aliss carried her INSTAX Mini camera while Habiyb used FUJIFILM X-T4.

“They’re unobtrusive,” Chris says about Fujifilm cameras. He loves how light and quiet they are, appreciating how the camera “invites me into these moments, without disturbing it.”

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/125 sec at F5.6, ISO 1000

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 and FUJINON XF50mmF2 R WR, 1/80 sec at F2.2, ISO 160

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/125 sec at F6.4, ISO 640

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/500 sec at F5.6, ISO 160

A Legacy of Love

Getting to know other fathers through the Dad Duty project is helping Chris learn more about himself as a father and an artist. He has photographed dads who live in the city and out in the country, dads who live with their kids full-time, and fathers, like himself, who are dads every day, even when their children are apart from them. Whether they’re wiping noses, driving carpools, coaching soccer, changing diapers, teaching their kids to do pull-ups, or how to take a great photo, they are showing their children they love them.

Even though Chris lives in a different state than his daughters, he cherishes his time with them. “If I do this project the right way, and at least the way that I envision it,” Chris remarks, “then my daughters are gonna learn so much about me from it – in a way there’d be no room for misunderstandings.”

“I keep the camera with me all the time, everywhere,” Chris adds, “I’ve been blessed that I get to photograph the things I care about, and that somebody else cares about it enough to want to have it in a gallery somewhere, or they want a print of it. I just try to keep everything about it as honest as I am.”

To explore more of Chris’ work, visit his website. Chris would love to keep expanding his network of Black fathers. If you would like to participate in Dad Duty, you can fill out this survey.

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/500 sec at F5.6, ISO 160

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/480 sec at F8, ISO 6400

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/500 sec at F8, ISO 2500

Photo 2023 © Chris Facey | FUJIFILM X100V, 1/500 sec at F8, ISO 5000