Bart Heynen’s moving new photography book, Dads, is all about celebrating the wonders of gay fatherhood. Featuring over forty American families, the book chronicles the beauty of everyday life as the dads raise babies, toddlers, and teens.
Photos range from kids sleeping in bed with their parents to dads at high school lacrosse practice to a baby in the hospital the day it was born, pressed against the skin of both of its fathers. Dads can be seen doing their daughters’ hair, sitting together at the breakfast table, and watching friends play with their children.
“While photographing these families I wanted to show that they are just like any other family, but at the same time have their own unique characteristics,” Heynen told It’s Nice That.
Heynen is from Belgium and now lives in New York City. Dads will be his first book published in the United States. He spent four years on the project, which was published by Powerhouse Books.
And this one was personal.
As a gay father of two, he wanted both himself and his children to get to know other families like theirs.
As such, he told W Magazine it’s his favorite project yet. “Everyone says that about their latest project, but I really mean it. As a gay dad, this one is really close to my heart. I didn’t know a lot of other gay dads before starting this project.”
The shared experience of gay fatherhood allowed Heynen to have instant connections with the families he shot. Sometimes, he would even bring his kids along.
The book is also meant to break down gender stereotypes. Men are not always as trusted to care for children, Heynen said to W. When his twins were born, he said he found himself surrounded by so many women who wanted to help. “It was great, but at a certain point I was like, ‘I got it, don’t worry. I can do it.'” Dads is a portrayal of the pride these parents feel in their families and capabilities. Above all else, it chronicles the love shared between the parents and their children.
Heynen said he was met with virtually no resistance from the dads he approached about being part of the book, as they all understood the importance of visibility for gay families.
“Everybody was happy to participate in the project because we feel like we need to give more visibility and make people aware it’s possible to create your own family,” he told PrideSource. “In America, the family is the cornerstone, and [gay dads] are a part of it.”