Nancy Bruno’s “Genuine Men”

Journeys in Stories and StillsIn Genuine Men: Journeys in Stories and Stills, Nancy Bruno has done more than catalog the lives of a few men in pictures. Looking through her book, you immediately get a sense of the time she spent in selecting not only the photographs that make up this book, but also the men themselves.

The photographs making up Genuine Men are black-and-white portraits. Bruno’s experience as an architectural and interior design photographer is evident throughout: where some photographers would have focused more closely on the titular men, Bruno has brought in elements of their surroundings. That addition provides a context that a stricter approach to portraiture would have reduced.

The context is particulary necessary with this project. Without Bruno’s subtle hints — and not-so-subtle text — this project would be little more than pictures of men standing around. Perhaps interesting, but not so intriguing as the idea that each man that Bruno photographed was so carefully selected. Furthermore, not every image in this book is technically perfect. Small flaws, however, juxtapose the idea that these are normal, everyday men. More refined images, whether through technical ability or computer correction, would change the nature of the characterization we find in these photos.

Bruno’s Genuine Men project grew out of a portrait project she completed in 2006, Beautiful Women. Both projects focused on everyday people — no celebrities, but instead folks of all ages and backgrounds. With Beautiful Women, Bruno worked to convery a healthier image of feminine beauty. With Genuine Men, Bruno focused on role models with an element of finding men that her young sons can look up to.

Bruno’s medium of choice is black-and-white 35mm photography. While she has done extensive architectural and interior design photography, Bruno has made a career of documentary projects, starting in 1996 with an examination of Canadian life during the long winter.