Christopher IRELAND
Ongoing Study of Father and Son


RAGING DADS

Akira and Ted, 2014

Akira Alvarez is a father of two who is marching to the beat of his own drum.

He is the president and founder of the ‘Raging Dads’ club, which is inspired by motorcycle club culture and was created to support those young dads who don’t really fit the traditional fatherhood figure.

Christopher Ireland has been documenting this journey between the father and sons, and continues to capture Akira’s changing identity as he ripens with age and juggles the lifestyle of a ‘rager’ and a father.

‘I’ve always been against the mainstream of society and I’d prefer to be looking really weird than really normal.’ – Akira Alvarez

 

What is the meaning behind ‘Raging Dads’ and where does it originate?

It’s more of a lifestyle choice, derived from me and a few other dads who worked in hospitality. We were working at night, drinking a lot but still in the day we would be really hands on with our kids – the juxtaposition of that was difficult, however because we all had each other we got through a lot of it.


Even the words Raging and Dads are quite opposing words but come together really neatly.

I’ve always been excited by Post WW2 subcultures, motorcycle club culture, 70’s New York street gangs. I looked at the way they put two words together e.g. Hells Angels – it was like raging dads…for dads who rage. The 1 percent of dad culture.


Can you spot another raging dad? And I guess it’s describing a subculture of a subculture because there are not many young dads,  let alone young raging dads.

It’s not just necessarily about youth. People need a release and being a dad is a weird thing. You didn’t have a baby, you never gave birth, what’s your connection to this thing that you’re biologically connected to. You’re in this really weird zone of where do you fit in this relationship between you, partner and child. It’s a lot to deal with and as a young dad there’s really no support groups at all…So it was something that I joked about, having this club for ‘dads’ and creating it as the same kind of concept as the ‘Elks’ club or the ‘Masons’ – those kind of men’s clubs.


You wear sleeveless arms, you have tats, you rock a certain groove. Do people come up to you and say ‘good on you dude!’ when you push a pram in Woollhara?

It’s mainly junkies that love me! They are like ‘oh mate wish I had a dad like you, you look like a legend!’ People around the east hate me. They are like ‘did that guy steal that kid? Is he drinking a long neck in the park? – That’s not a real situation but generally they really dislike the look of me, and I really like that because I’ve always been against the mainstream of society and I’d prefer to be looking really weird than really normal.

I guess a lot of the initial recruit dads have that kind of look – these are all dudes getting tattooed by the same people, drinking at the same bars, eating with each other, started going out together, then we had kids, kids started playing together, so its sort of been this thing that has grown and grown…and as a club in Sydney alone there’s probably about 16 members, all from various walks of life.  There are guys who work in design firms, advertising agencies, artists, musicians, bars, chefs but generally the binding thing is, the common interest of being a father and liking to get pretty messed up.


How do you become a member? Is there a process involved or an association?

Well, it’s both.  It’s definitely a 9 month gestational period and then once you got your baby, you’re in! And if you’ve already got a baby then it’s like you can become a prospect member.  Generally the people who have been involved are people I have known for years.

 

You talked about the gestational period.  Ok, you got a rager but then the rager becomes the dad does the dad slow down the raging, is it an endless battle?

It’s up to them. Then it’s this constant flux and flow of fatherhood comes in, work comes in and you’ve got to have the release of your party time.

Some people make the choice to fully stop boozing – that’s fine good for them.  But for me and my mates we need those times.  It’s not like its everyday or anything like that but it still needs to happen.

 

So I guess you can start with something that’s a microcosm subculture in Sydney, but now there’s Instagram, social media and stuff.

Well it’s already blown up

 

How do they find you?

Mainly through Instagram, we’ve posted things like ‘support your local raging dad.’  I mean that’s the big thing…there’s not a lot of support out there for dads. People have to get behind it.

 

Do you try and stay in touch with them?

Yeh there’s one LA member definitely.  One Australian member went over and gave him a shirt.  One guy who has been the most active with me in the club  is moving to North Hollywood and is going to start another chapter over there.  We started a chapter in Melbourne that has 8 members, in Byron Bay has a few members, and another one in the Gold Coast.  They are all young dudes who have similar interests…I guess not all the same musical taste but we all like rock n roll on the whole and like drinking beers.  I guess for a lot of fathers they feel like they can’t have a voice to go to there wife ‘alright love I need to go have a beer with the boys’ cause they get shut down but if they have ‘dad business’ to attend to that’s a completely different kettle of fish.

It’s stuff you can’t talk to your regular mates about, they talk about shagging birds and stuff.  Whereas if you say my kid hit his head the other day and he’s got a brain tumor, they’re like ‘that’s pretty heavy I can’t even comprehend that…the emotion of that must be terrifying’. But then if you’re talking to another dad the emotion is completely different, ‘Jesus Christ mate, what are we going to do? lets try and help you out’.

That’s an actual situation that happened in the Melbourne raging dad’s club.  This dude was like this is the problem I have as a father and they were all there to support this guy whereas he never felt he could talk about that to anyone else.

 

So what about the t-shirts? Tell me about those?

T-shirts and patches are for club members only. So they’re not for the general public. It’s club members that wear their shirts just like motorcycle clubs wear their coulours. We got patches made and we all wear them when we go out. What we are going to market is the ‘support your local raging dad’ t-shirts and its not a mass-market thing. It’s just for those who like the idea and we have an image for that and we are just going to get them printed in the next few months and start selling them through our website and Instagram.

 

How does the chapter recruit a member?

Sometimes its like people have a perspective member.  Few dudes in Bondi who want to become perspective members.  I have to hold a club day where we go have a BBQ or play pool, drink beers or just hang out.  Some people aren’t right for it and some people are, and you can feel that stright away – people just click.

 

So it’s somewhat organised

Yeh it’s definitely organised.  We’ve just based it off 60s Biker clubs.

President
Vice president
Sergeant of Arms
Treasurer
Club members
Prospects – ideally buy you beers

Akira and Ted, 2010

I first photographed you almost five years ago, with Ted when he was 1.  A large part of you has stayed the same yet your identity has evolved as you’ve become older. Are those photographs and portraits likely to ripen with age as they sort of document your identity with fatherhood?

Definitely.  I’ll definitely get a lot weirder.  The kids will get bigger.  That’s the coolest thing about these photographs, seeing these little snippets of life. It will be interesting to see the three of us together in another year or two how things have changed stylistically and personally.

 

And how are people responding to the last round of photographs?

People love them, even the ones of Teddy and I lying on the ground playing guitar.  The shot of Charlie and I is so…. it’s funny, because I think it’s a time the lowest I’ve felt emotionally in years.  It really comes across in the photo. Whereas in the earlier photo (Ted) I feel like I look like a fairly strong, young father and I was happy and everything was new, and like still scary,we’d had the baby for a year and he wasn’t dead so we we’re like we’re doing alright.  But with Charlie it was like almost a 6 year old kid plus this one year old and I was feeling very, very different from where I was 5 years ago.


There’s a lovely tenderness in that shot where you’re playing guitar because you’re being you and your son loves you being you and he wants to hang with that guy.  Kids are so accepting they want you to be yourself they don’t like you putting up a front.

100 percent.  That’s something that is important to me and if you’re not true to yourself then you may as well be working in an office or something.  At that stage I felt like I had walked away from so much of my creative self and then now 4 months later I’m feeling really good playing in bands again, going out, making new friends and it’s good. Depression is a hell of a thing.  It’s something that definitely occurs with fathers a lot.  Something we are talking about at the moment is getting involved with Black Dog or The Shed, or one of those man orientated charities to help raise awareness for those kind of things.  As much as they are around they are really not spoken about.

 

If the epic portrait of you and Charlie was to stand for something, what would that be?

I think Fatherhood on the whole, and the idea that it can be done.  The biggest cop out for me is people that are like ‘oh nah I’ll just wait till I’m older, a bit more of a stable life.’  There is absolutely no right time to have a child, it’s always going to be a struggle or whether you have a job or you don’t.  It’s also the most incredible thing you can do with your life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I feel sorry for people who don’t have children.  It’s a struggle, but it’s amazing.

 

So the image is a triumph of fatherhood.

Yeah, it really truly is.  That’s what it’s really about.  The searching of the self, who are you as a father, as a person, as a partner.  When I look at this image, that’s what I’m thinking ‘who am I at this stage in my life?’ I’m going through a huge transition in my life and that photo is at the exact point that I decided to make some changes and it really sings through in the image.

 

To find out more about the Raging Dads Club, follow Akira on Instagram @howlin_alvarez #ragingdads

Interview with Christopher Ireland and Akira Alvarez
All images by Christopher Ireland

Akira and Ted, 2014

Akira and Charlie, 2014