I have a ‘Dad Bod’; well what did you expect, I am a dad and I have a body ergo I have a dad bod. I’m not sure at what point that term started to pass into popular lexicon but I’m quite happy with what it means. I take it as a complement; it is perhaps the first indication that society is beginning to realise the contribution that fathers make to the raising of our children and the cost associated with that responsibility. You have less time for everything else, not least exercise, and the challenges and pressures of being a parent mean most of us succumb at some point to the occasional self-soothing, self-medicating drink or pie. Actually, it’s usually both and ‘occasional’ is an optimistic euphemism for ‘regular’.
My recent experience of photographing my first nude subject and seeing just how comfortable she was in her own skin, as well as my current project that focuses the gaze on such fine masculine forms as can be found anywhere, highlights the cost to self-esteem and ego of the dad bod. I know what my reaction would be now at the ripening age of 46, with what was recently described by one Tinder date as a ‘chunky’ build (otherwise known as the dad bod), to someone suggesting I just pop my top off and pose for a photograph. Hell would freeze over first.
Why? Why should I feel so self-conscious? I’m a relatively successful professional, well educated, debilitatingly intellectual but with a great sense of humour. I’m pathologically honest – something apparently in short supply currently – caring, sensitive and a reasonably accomplished photographer. I have achieved a high level of education, fathered two gorgeous children and, until recently at least, have been a committed and faithful husband. I have much to be proud of. Why then should I care if someone suggests I’m ‘chunky’ and it be the politest way they can muster to explain their lack of sexual interest?
Ian is someone I first met several years ago when I first started shooting street portraits. His picture ended up in a slim book I self-published and he was by all accounts really very happy with it. He is an extraordinarily talented illustrator working for The Guardian, The Observer and The Spectator among other high-profile publications. He is an accomplished BMX rider, a father, husband and, in my opinion at least, incredibly handsome in a rugged and weathered way. If Ernest Hemmingway had fathered a child with Emily Bronte, they could have called him Heathcliff and it would easily have been life imitating art. Like me, he has so much to be proud of and so much to offer and yet he like me would rather swim with the sharks than have his dad bod photographed.
My project ‘Here Among the Flowers’ is at least in part an exploration of the pressures that weigh heavily on the male psyche. And while the main thrust of that project is to explore this by juxtaposing strong masculine presentations in a more feminine and vulnerable setting, nevertheless the weight on the psyche is never far from the surface and the dad bod is only ever a few children away.