“What intrigues me when I look at these images is that they show African Americans with a distinct and powerful sense of pride and joy. Despite the fact that these pictures are ‘found’ Polaroids, that power often lingers and transcends their personal subject matter… Many of these frames echo the key purpose of the Father Figure project, a counter-balance to the prevalent visual tropes of absent fathers and dysfunctional black families”.
Photographer Zun Lee continues his work on black male identity with his latest project, “Fade Resistance“, utilizing family Polaroids either found on the street curb or picked up in flea markets and on eBay. A collection he started a year ago of African American vernacular photography that spans from the 1970s until 2000, the Polaroids offer glimpses into everyday family life and, as Lee reflects, “descriptive of universal experiences”.
Zun Lee’s work is heavily influenced by his own personal family history. Born and raised in Germany, Lee didn’t discover until he was in his 30’s that his biological father was black, rather than the Korean father he had been raised with. He turned to photography to come to terms as well as to explore the concepts of fatherhood in black families – and to counteract the stereotype of the “deadbeat” black father figure, as he did with his earlier project series called Father Figure. “I hope this work can help question preconceived notions and present a broader context of black fatherhood. Perhaps it can serve as a counter-narrative to humanize black men as present and competent fathers in a media climate that largely continues to deny this possibility.”
Zun Lee will be presenting “Fade Resistance” at the upcoming Magnum Foundation’s Photography, Expanded Symosium. With over 3,000 collected Polaroids, Lee hopes that they will be reunited with their families over the course of this project and expects to lead the collection into an interactive online space to assist with not only identifying them but also to allow for the public to interact with the photographs and contribute their own family photos. “My hope is, at the very minimum, to give the vintage Polaroids a new ‘virtual home’ in a present-day context but with a revitalized meaning and contemporary significance.”
For more on Zun Lee and his projects, visit his Official Website.