Picture this: Project helps fathers capture moments as they reconnect with their kids
Derek DuVall waits by the front door of the Prince Hall Family Support Center holding something in his hands. After introducing himself, he holds that something out, proudly.
It’s a brochure, and on the cover, between two pieces by German painter Max Beckmann, DuVall stands with one arm around his daughter, Geneva DuVall. The 11-year-old holds a mummy she created herself, one that’s now in her room.
The photo of DuVall and his daughter is one of many taken by men involved with the Fathers’ Support Center, a nonprofit that works with helping men reconnect with their children. As part of the program, several men worked with the Public Policy Research Center’s Photography Project. Over the course of six weeks, they learned about digital photography, took photos of each other at the beginning of the program and the end, of their children, their lives and their bonding trip to the St. Louis Art Museum.
“There is not one program that I’ve done that are similar to each other,” says Ingram, who was recently named Outstanding Arts Educator in the 2012 Visionary Awards from Grand Center. “The only similarities are the cameras that they use.”
Halbert Sullivan, chief executive officer of the Fathers’ Support Center, was open to working with the PPRC because he hoped learning the skill would help increase the men’s self-esteem.
During the program, the men kept journals. Often, they started with simple “I am” statements that now hang on the walls of the lobby of Prince Hall, next to the framed and matted photos from the project. Through the journals and the photos, Ingram says, you can see the men change.
Initially, 14 men started with the photography program and eight completed it. Mel Watkin, director of the photography program, says the program at the Fathers’ Support Center is demanding and expects a lot from participants.
“It’s like a bootcamp,” she says.
Sullivan also hoped the men would close a gap between them and their children.
“These guys don’t carry pictures in their wallets,” he says. “My goal is to get them to connect to their children.”
For DuVall, that’s happened.
He joined initially because he was interested in classes on computers, health care and parenting. He’s now making regular payments on child support, working, in school and very proudly a graduate. He carries the certificate with him everywhere he goes.
“I got a lot of positive things going for me now,” DuVall says.
He didn’t participate in the photo project, but he and is daughter are featured, and DuVall also helped hang the pieces at Prince Hall. Watching the men take the photos and then see them after made everyone stand up straighter, he says.
“It changes people.”
And thanks to the project, a moment from his day at the museum with his daughter was captured.
“That’s all she talks about now in school, ‘my daddy took me to the museum, I saw the mummies,’” he says. “It’s a very beautiful program for getting fathers back with their kids.”
Photos from the Fathers’ Support Center are on display now through May 6 at Prince Hall Family Support Center and the PPRC Photography Project Gallery at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.