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PICTORIAL STORY

March 22, 2024

UNVEILING VULNERABILITY

EXPLORING MALE EMOTIONALITY THROUGH “BOYS DON’T CRY”

Photography by Francesca Tiboni
Story by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico

The Pictorial List enjoys watching our artists in our community grow and like proud parents we take pride in their successes and celebrate their achievements. We have had the distinct pleasure watching Francesca Tiboni’s journey over the years behind the lens be nothing less than inspirational for photographers of all genders, nationalities globally. Francesca began her journey through the lens at a tender age of eight, a gift inherited from her father that she has cherished ever since. For almost two decades, she has called Cagliari, the vibrant capital city of Sardinia, her home — a place where the modern bustle intertwines with ancient history dating back thousands of years. Beneath the city’s contemporary facades lie the remnants of civilizations stretching from the Neolithic era to the present day, a rich tapestry of culture and heritage that fuels Francesca’s artistic vision.

Self-taught and introspective, Francesca has embarked on a photographic odyssey as a deeply personal exploration — a means to unravel the complexities of the world around her while delving into the depths of her own emotions. Her explorations and discoveries have allowed her to bridge cultural divides translating the intricacies of human experience across diverse landscapes.

Over the years, Francesca’s passion for photography has flourished, despite the challenges of balancing it with the responsibilities of a full-time job and motherhood. Her lens has traversed the margins of society, capturing the subtle beauty of urban peripheries in projects like “The Silences Where We See” and delving into the poignant transition to adulthood in “Something about the Future”.

From the raw authenticity of street portraiture, Francesca ventured into uncharted territories, exploring the male form with a newfound perspective. Her artistic evolution took her to the streets of Istanbul, where she not only served as a judge at the renowned Street Photo Festival but also conducted workshops on “Street Photography as a Journey of Self-Discovery”, nurturing young talents along the way.

It was in Istanbul that Francesca found a kindred spirit in fellow photographer Barbara Di Maio, sparking a shared vision to amplify the voices of Italian female street photographers. This shared passion culminated in the formation of “Women In Street Italy”, the first collective of its kind, dedicated to empowering and showcasing the talent of women in the street photography scene.

Through her lens and collaborative endeavors, Francesca Tiboni continues to weave narratives of beauty, authenticity, and empowerment, capturing fleeting moments that resonate across cultures and generations.

FRANCESCA TIBONI

In a world where societal norms often dictate that men must suppress their emotions, “Boys Don’t Cry” emerges as a poignant exploration of male vulnerability. Conceived by photographer Francesca Tiboni, this project delves into the depths of masculinity, challenging conventional perceptions and inviting viewers to confront the complexities of the male emotional experience.

The genesis of “Boys Don’t Cry” lies in a series of serendipitous encounters on the streets — a chance meeting with men who, despite societal expectations, were willing to bare their souls before the lens. Through intimate conversations, these men shared deeply personal stories, often shedding tears in the process. This raw display of emotion sparked a profound reflection on the societal pressures that compel men to conceal their vulnerabilities, even from themselves.

“Why does a man have to stand in front of a stranger to give space to his emotions?” This fundamental question serves as the guiding light of the project, prompting a critical examination of the evolving role of men in contemporary society. Over the past five decades, traditional notions of masculinity have undergone a seismic shift, yet the stigma surrounding male vulnerability persists.

Central to “Boys Don’t Cry” is the exploration of the male body as a canvas for emotional expression. Through a careful juxtaposition of physical strength and inner fragility, Francesca seeks to capture the inherent contradictions within masculinity. The muscular and bony structures of the body serve as visual narratives, conveying a profound sense of vulnerability beneath the surface. Francesca shares a few questions that inspired this project.

“Is there a trace of this vulnerability in the man who exposes himself? Does the muscular and bony structure of the body tell a story? The exploration of the male body grew out of research that sought to capture the contrast between physical strength and fragility expressed through movement and looks.”

The project unfolds in two distinct phases. Initially Francesca works with models who embody the themes distilled from street conversations, using their physicality to convey emotional depth. However, as the project evolves, men begin to approach Tiboni, drawn to the project by a resonance with their own experiences. In this latter phase, creativity intertwines with personal narrative, resulting in deeply intimate and therapeutic photo sessions that transcend mere imagery.

For Francesca, “Boys Don’t Cry” is not just an artistic endeavor but also a journey of personal discovery. Each photograph serves as a self-portrait, reflecting her own story and struggles with vulnerability. Through the faces, gestures, and bodies of her subjects, Francesca unwittingly tells her own tale, inviting viewers to embark on a journey of introspection and self-awareness.

In a cultural context where discussions of male emotionality often veer towards negative stereotypes, this insightful investigation offers a refreshing perspective. By celebrating the courage to confront vulnerability, Francesca’s work challenges societal norms and fosters a deeper understanding of the male psyche. In doing so, it paves the way for healing and transformation, encouraging men to embrace their emotional truths without shame or inhibition.

“Boys Don’t Cry” is more than just a photography project — it is a testament to the resilience and humanity of the male experience. Through its intimate portrayal of emotion, it urges us to reconsider our preconceived notions of masculinity and embrace a more compassionate understanding of ourselves and others.

As we conclude our exploration of “Boys Don’t Cry,” we find ourselves deeply moved by Francesca Tiboni’s powerful journey into the heart of male vulnerability. Through her lens, she not only captures fleeting moments of emotion but also confronts the societal norms that have long dictated how men should express themselves.

In a world where masculinity is often synonymous with stoicism and strength, “Boys Don’t Cry” serves as a poignant reminder that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but of profound courage. This project challenges us to reevaluate our perceptions of masculinity, inviting us to embrace the complexity of the male emotional experience.

From the streets of Cagliari to the workshops of Istanbul, Francesca’s journey has been one of introspection and discovery. Through her photography, she not only tells the stories of others but also finds echoes of her own struggles and triumphs. In doing so, she creates a space for empathy and understanding, transcending cultural divides and societal expectations.

As we reflect on “Boys Don’t Cry,” we are reminded of the power of art to provoke thought, spark conversation, and inspire change. Francesca’s work is a testament to the transformative potential of photography, offering a glimpse into the depths of the human soul and challenging us to embrace our shared humanity.

In the end, “Boys Don’t Cry” is more than just a photography project — it is a call to action, a plea for authenticity, and a celebration of the courage to be vulnerable. Through her lens, Francesca Tiboni invites us to peel back the layers of societal conditioning and embrace the full spectrum of human emotion. It is a journey that invites us to listen, to learn, and ultimately, to evolve.

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Read "Something About The Future"

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author/s, and are not necessarily shared by The Pictorial List and the team.

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