©Jörg Meier // From the series ‘Daddy Cool’
The Story behind the Portrait
This series is called ‘Daddy Cool’ and is about teenage fathers. About ten years ago, the German newspapers increasingly showed young girls who were pregnant and smoking in front of their homes. This was effectively a social judgment on the girls and their lives, resulting in a disapproving and negative collective feeling about them. What I saw was nothing more than children who had children themselves and were in urgent need of support. In my mind, these girls were victims – not in the sense of a crime, but from the disadvantages within their family, educational experiences or support from the German family policy system.
In starting this series, I initially stayed in homes for young mothers and talked to the young women at length. They had few visitors and the visits they had were mostly from their own mothers – it seemed that only very rarely, did a young father come along. When one did, it was apparent that he very quickly withdrew back into the role of being a child himself, for example, fighting any paternity suit through his parents or by legal means.
One day, I met a young man, aged just 16 years old who arrived on his skateboard to see his daughter. This first meeting during which we just talked, led to me embarking on a project within this issue, looking for other young men who were attempting to take on this role of being a father. In time, this became a Germany-wide journey for me, meeting those I would photograph. What I found was that many of these young men were somewhat balanced between being children themselves as well as fulfilling the role of being a father to a child.
In the young family in the portrait, there was already a visible break between the partners. The father did not want to be deprived of contact and was trying to be involved in his child’s life. I went for long walks with them, through their area where they were raised, and this photo was taken during one such walk after it had started to rain. I invited them to stop for a drink and we sat in a café and the situation leading to the portrait unfolded before me. The young father took the baby to feed it and as he did so, he turned towards the light. Seeing this, I left the café and looking back inside made this portrait. I am no longer sure whether he is looking at me or just staring at nothing. His expression is open, and he looks almost vulnerable.
During my visits with the young parents, there were many similar rainy days, reflected in a grey mood that hung over them. In this portrait, the two bars separate the two halves of the photo and indicate this noticeable separation between the parents. With this young man, it was always difficult to let his child go after he had spent time with him. His ease of feeding his baby came naturally to him and the situation became part of his familiar. After the meeting, he handed his baby back over and disappeared down the street, back onto his skateboard and into his own childhood.
I am no longer sure whether he is looking at me or just staring at nothing. His expression is open, and he looks almost vulnerable.
Jörg Meier was born in Dortmund, Germany. He works as a documentary photographer, and also in cultural and political projects within collaborative practice and education in Germany. He has recently finished an exhibition from a long-term project on human rights and is currently working on another long-term and self-initiated project on people from Glasgow.
Website and Social
www.selfiegrafen.de (collaborative practice and education)