A Portrait of Modern Fatherhood in America

We sent acclaimed photographer Callie Lipkin down the West Coast to talk to fathers and celebrate the often unheralded work of dads.

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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, garages, kitchens, beaches, 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 mom) Callie Lipkin down the West Coast to talk to fathers about their families and themselves. Lipkin captured a loose community of happy dads working as hard as they can to do and be better.

Earl Johnson, Isabella Johnson, and Jayden Johnson

Seattle, Washington

“One value that’s a very important value that I try to stress to my kids is just being a loving person in general. Always saying thank you, please, and being grateful for what you have. Always strive to push yourself forward.”

Jevon Washington and Ryan Washington

Seattle, Washington

“Fathers are supposed to dependable. They are supposed to be soft-hearted but tough-skinned. She taught me all of that. Whether it be protecting her from danger or melting when she kisses me on the cheek, which is absolutely amazing and makes me happy. My daughter has a sense when she knows I’m sad. She loves to give me a hug when I’m sad and it makes me realize I’m so loved. It’s a super encouraging thing to know. And she can know that she can always depend on me.”

Mike Stilkey and Nico Stilkey-Johnston

Sierra Madre, California

“My favorite part is watching Nico discover and learn about things. I gave him an electric pencil sharpener one time and it blew his mind. He sharpened pencils for two hours straight. It still blows my mind how smart kids are. I thought kids were a nuisance until they hit age 10 and realize what the world is. But when he was four years old, he was like, ‘Why do we die?’ He’s been questioning life since he was four years old. That totally took me by surprise.”

Sy Moody and Zander Franzwa-Moody

Santa Monica, California

“Before I had kids, I was basically a big kid. I say that I was changed from the lead role to a supporting actor, but the movie actually got better. Less me is better.”

Shawn Loh and Ophelia Loh

Pasadena, California

“She’s so new that everything she does is the best. There’s a new thing every day. Today she’s rolling over; that’s the new great thing. Work can be crazy–16- and 18-hour days–so just hanging, spending time with her, and having fun is the best part.”

Paris Cronin and Isla Cronin

Los Angeles, California

“There are so many things. Her looking up and saying, ‘Dada.’ The first hug she gave me voluntarily. The joy it brings just knowing I’m in charge of this life and I’m responsible for her well-being and helping her grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted human being. Seeing her grow, seeing her learn. It’s all just a pleasure and it’s amazing.”

Noah Zeichner, Elana Zeichner, and Ezra Zeichner

Seattle, Washington

“My job is all-consuming and I’m always bringing work home but there are certain routines we make sure to keep constant. I always read to Elana at night. We read chapter books. We’re on book four of Harry Potter right now. And every other summer we take them to the East Coast to visit my wife’s parents. I didn’t grow up around grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins so we try to keep them connected to their extended family.”

Nicolae White and Percy White

Seattle, Washington

“It brings me back to my childhood and makes me appreciate the things I liked and didn’t like. It gives me the chance to do it over again but better. I thought I was in touch with myself but once you have to take care of someone else, you truly have to be completely open and collaborative and loving and set everything else aside. I thought, ‘I’ve had all these jobs, I’ve worked on a fishing boat in Alaska, I’ve played in bands, I’ve done all of these things.’ But I was barely scratching the surface.”

Louis Tikaram and Maëlle Tikaram

Los Angeles, California

“The look on her face when she sees something for the first time is just priceless and to remember the same thing again and again and start to learn, it’s the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had. It makes me wonder how I was at that age and inspires me to seek out new and exciting things for my wife and me to do so we can experience new things together.”

Kurtis Dominguez, Ezekiel Dominguez, and Ezra Dominguez

Maple Valley, WA

“Best part about being a father is basically being able to rewind time. I get to crawl around and play with superheroes and go on all kinds of adventures. I get to be a kid too. As an EMT, I work really long hours–14-hour shifts, really late nights, coming home at midnight. It’s hard but it’s kind of cool because I’m away from them for so long that when I do see them, they are super excited to see me. At least right now.”

Kevin Petermeyer and Raya Petermeyer

Seattle, Washington

“The most important and resounding thing I have learned is that I can’t be selfish anymore. There’s no time for me to do the things I want to do. I mean, there is, but it’s all about being selfless and taking care of my wife and daughter.”

Josh Potter and John Potter

Hawthorne, California

“Going back to work was the toughest thing I had ever done. Leaving him on a daily basis is just such a–I know I have to do it, but I don’t want to do it. I’d bring him to meetings if I could. He’s more fun than any of my coworkers.”

Abdul Mgana and Diana Mgana

Seattle, Washington

“I feel like I have accomplished one thing in my life that’s very significant and that will replace me if anything happens to me. Whatever I’m planning or doing is not going to be wasted. It’s going to be carried on. I’m not alone.”

 

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