Zun Lee’s photographs alternate notions of black fatherhood in America

Zun Lee picked up a camera to relieve work stress and ended up capturing a poignant series of photos that challenge stereotypes of black families in America.

Zun Lee is a physician and a self-taught photographer. “The way I got into photography was actually by accident,” says Lee in an interview by InFrame. “I had a stressful corporate job and didn’t really have much of a life. A co-worker suggested I pick up photography.” He quickly developed an eye for documentary photography and street portraiture.

“It became more than a hobby when I began photographing people on the street,” says Lee.

Lee’s 2013 series, “Father Figure” captured fathers and their children to dispel the public opinion and popular media portrayal of black men as absent fathers. Shot in intimate black and white frames, the images draw the lens in on the ordinary overlooked moments in the lives of African American men.

“As I’m photographing these fathers, I realise that not only are they loving and warm and affectionate toward their children, but they’re not perfect,” says Lee.

The fathers in the images parent under a number of different circumstances – as married fathers, single fathers, social fathers, young and older, middle class and poor.

Lee believes that the media tries to polarise fatherhood into the absent father archetype or the “Dr Cliff Huxtable archetype”.  Based in Toronto, his photography is hailed as a landmark project because of the way Lee seamlessly blends documentary photography and personal visual storytelling.

Lee’s projects garnered attention from publications such as The New York Times and The New Yorker because of his ability to challenge media stereotypes of African-American families.