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Focusing on 'Genuine Men'

Like her documentaries are a journey, Bruno embarked on her own in order to find her genuine men. She found many through word-of-mouth and others were randomly plucked from the community, spotted by Bruno as she people watched.

"I watch people, I listen and if I saw things, especially when two people were interacting; the way someone would respond to a particular man and his behaviors, I'd just know they were right for the project," said Bruno. "Most were complete strangers to me. I didn't know anything about them at all."

Bruno sat down with each man and had them fill out some questions. Then she started in on long interviews, sometimes several hours, and she learned just what made them genuine men whom boys like her own sons could look up to. The men ranged in age from 12 to 91. When it came time to photograph them, she put them in scenes where they were doing something that showed who they really were.

"They got to choose how they were photographed and which ones would be used," said Bruno.

The collection of black and white photographs worked together with brief stories about each man, bound together in a hardcover book. For the library exhibit, Bruno said she cut down the stories to work more as long captions, displayed beside each photo.

The stories told range from ordinary to extraordinary. There's Leighton, a Vietnamese American who is one of seven children who grew up in Southern California. He got involved with gang life and spent time in detention centers and jail before moving to the area. He's a genuine man because he uses his past to give even more meaning to his new outlook on life and accomplishments.

Humberto is a Mexican American who uses his Spanish and English skills to serve as chaplain in the backstretch at Saratoga race track. He spent much time building trust among those he helps and handles a different crisis every day, from marriage counseling to visas, work permits, hospital visits, car repair, helping with homework or making sure children have clothes and school supplies.

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