This is What Fatherhood in America Looks Like

We sent acclaimed photographer (and dad) Jesse Burke down the Eastern Seaboard to talk to fathers and celebrate the often unheralded work of dads.

by Jesse Burke
Originally Published: 

The following was produced in partnership with Honda and the new Odyssey, which is packed with features that help parents make the most of quality time in the car with their kids.

Over the last few decades, new fathers have quietly rewritten their domestic job description. In backyards, bedrooms, garages, kitchens, churches, temples, gyms, schools, and streets, they’ve been strong, constant, and comforting presences in the lives of their children. To celebrate this often unheralded work, Fatherly sent acclaimed photographer (and dad) Jesse Burke down the Eastern Seaboard to talk to fathers about their families and themselves. Burke captured a loose community of happy dads working as hard as they can to do and be better.

Andrew Kesin and Lulu Kesin

Northampton, Massachusetts

“The values that I hope to instill in my kids are loyalty, respect for others, love, creativity and a hard work ethic. I think those are pretty important. Passion, have a passion for what you do.”

Daryl Weber and Avi Weber

Atlanta, Georgia

“Avi’s obsessed with trains. We took the Marta, the local train here, to the airport. For me it is usually a boring long subway ride. To him it was this crazy mind-blowing experience. He’s sitting on my lap, having this amazing time for the whole ride. Now, when I ride the train, I look at it differently and think, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’

Dave Jagodzinski, Alexa Jagodzinski and Sophia Jagodzinski

Northampton, Massachusetts

“There’s times where it is great to come home after a long day of work and just be there with your family and go swimming in the pool…. I’d say the best day of my life was being there for the birth of all three of my kids. That’s something that is just something so amazing to see.”

Edgar Cancel and Jacob Cancel

Northampton, Massachusetts

“You go into fatherhood thinking you are going to be teaching this person a lot. But I think I’m doing more learning than teaching. Having to focus my energy on somebody else who is part of me, my blood, it’s really exciting. I’ve learned so much about how to be a better human.”

Gregory Harris and Emmett Harris

Atlanta, Georgia

“Even doing something as simple as going for a walk down the block is just mind-blowing for him because we see animals, trees, and plants. Just seeing all these things in nature for the first time that he’s never seen before. It’s all new, it’s all fascinating and he has questions about everything. Things I’ve gotten totally accustomed to and don’t even look at anymore, he is just endlessly curious and fascinated by.”

Joe Hamilton, Tatum Hamilton, Titan Hamilton and Tessa Hamilton

Marysville, Ohio

“Since I’m a mechanic I have a truck at home that’s raised and we love to get underneath and work on it. All the kids are laying on the ground with different wrenches doing nothing and just banging on stuff. But they want to do that because I’m out there and that’s a good feeling.”

Justin Pizzoferrato and Luca Pizzoferrato

Northampton, Massachusetts

“I own and run a recording studio in Easthampton, Massachusetts. I love music. I’ve always wanted to do something with music. I felt drawn to recording and decided to pursue that. Luca doesn’t come here that often just because of the hours I work, but I think it impacts our lives because we are always listening to music. Music is a big part of our lives.”

Luke Ahern and Zevon Ahern

Marysville, Ohio

“My two sons are adopted and we adopted them about three years ago. It’s been extremely challenging but one of the most rewarding parts has been thinking about their choice to allow me to father them as opposed to with biological children just being born into it. The fact that they were able to at some point make that choice is extremely rewarding and it feels natural. It feels like they are my biological children.”

Marc Patillo, Iliana Patillo and Anteia Patillo

Northampton, Massachusetts

“I am a stay at home father because I love my girls and I want to be as active a part in their life as I can…. Just being able to watch them grow, watch them learn and watch them experience things in life. Being a father means I will never be short of love and laughter.”

Peter Guldager, Ben Guldager and Oliver Guldager

Marysville, Ohio

“Your life changes like that when you have children. I’m kind of a kid at heart so it gives me the opportunity to get excited about stuff they get excited about…I feel like I’m part of a team and, kind of funny to say, I’m part of a team with my boys. We’re all in it together and to me that’s what it is all about.”

Rick McMurtry, Randall Killpatrick, Ryan and Jake

Atlanta, Georgia

“It didn’t hit me right off the bat in the very beginning, what a father is. It’s taught me over the years, you’re not the only person in the world. You have to release your ‘just me’ attitude and realize there is this other being in your life that’s growing up and learning. It’s not all about me anymore, it’s about my children.” –Randall Killpatrick

Rob Baker and Vivian Baker

Atlanta, Georgia

“Being a dad means to me that I need to be more than a friend to my children. I need to be more than a peer. I need to be that role model. I always have the best person I can be, the best father and the best husband.”

Cory Spain and Abigail Spain

Marysville, Ohio

“When Abigail said her first word, we were driving to the grocery store and she was in the backseat. I was watching her in the rearview mirror. For several days, she had just been moving her mouth to try and form words. Finally, she just went, ‘Dada.’ She kind of whispered it. She kept doing that: ‘Dada. Dada. Dada.’ It was one of the coolest things.”

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