After studying the social pressure that men and children endure to be up to the standard, Giovanni Corabi decided to photograph a series of men, all different ages and backgrounds, expressing masculinity in their own way, to show that there is no one way of being a man, but infinite valid ways.

As author Bell Hooks writes: ‘Patriarchal mores teach a form of emotional stoicism to men that says they are more manly if they don’t feel’ (Hooks, 2004, p.5). This is particularly important in young individuals, as they are very receptive to such pressures, it can be detrimental to their emotional development.

 

BOYS DON’T CRY is a journey into the emotional inner world of different men, so tell me a little bit about the project and how it started.

 

What is the narrative of the project? Who are the protagonists of your photographs? 

I wanted to attack the stereotype that oppresses men, forcing them into one type of masculinity, and to encourage them to feel free to express themselves. So I photographed a series of people that are very different from each other, to show that there is not one way of being a man but infinite valid ways. There are artists, professional athletes, models, dancers, my family… everyone that I thought was interesting shoot and talk to.

 

What (or who) inspired the project at the beginning? 

It was a multitude of things, from my brother’s teenage rebellion, to my interest in the ideal male body image and its relationship to modern masculinity. But overall, it was the feeling that we all silently suffer from this one dimensional vision of what a man should be. We often hear about the pressure women face to conform but we rarely hear the same about men.

 

You are very young but your photographs can be at time very nostalgic. What’s your relationship with the youth culture?

As far as I can remember, I have always felt a bit older than I am. I was raised by a single mum and was always treated as an equal, so I often look at people my age and younger in a nostalgic way. Photographing the youth is my way of being part of it and living it. Especially in London, where people are so free, rebellious, they are not afraid of being different or just being who they are. That was a big shock coming from Italy!

 

BOYS DON’T CRY seems to focus, in part, on your autobiography. It seems like you went through a lot of very extreme emotional sensitivity, what’s your feeling about it?

I think as an artist you have to talk about what you know and what you care about. You have to explore things you are drawn to and respond to them. I have always felt the tendency to normalize the youth as a violation of personal expression. Forcing kids to be anything, is detrimental to their emotional development and ultimately does more harm than good. They have to be guided but respecting their differences no matter how big or small they may be.

In your opinion, what is the definition of masculinity today? How patriarchal culture still influences the stereotype about man and fragility? 

Today the Western world is slowly moving towards gender equality. People are starting to see that we have many more things in common than not. The idea of masculinity is developing as well. Although the traditional, tough and unemotional type of masculinity is still very much part of our society, we now see men understanding that there are many ways in which they can comfortably express themselves.

 

Do you see your personal works as an extension of your commercial works, or viceversa?

Yes, I do. Whatever job I am doing, I always try to find something that interests me, and angle that I want to explore. Shooting Boys Don’t Cry, I developed a strong interest in the emotional sphere of my subjects, and this tends to come up often in my commercial work as well.

 

You graduated at Central Saint Martin few months ago. What’s your next step now?

I want to keep exploring and keep pushing and moving forward.

Follow Giovanni Corabi at Instagram