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Face of our Time

“Face of our time” is a project based on posed portraits that takes shape in 2021 as a reflection about the alienating effect of face masks on our perception of “the others”. 

Intrigued by how my brain was constantly trying to re-construct an ideal image of those strangers I was meeting in my everyday life, creatively filling that “square void” caused by the face masks, I began collecting studio shots of noses, cheeks and mouths of people around me. 

But the deeper I went into it, the stronger I felt the urge to tell the stories of those women and men I was meeting and talking with during the studio sessions. 

As an evolution of the initial idea, I decided to shoot them again, in a place having a strong relationship with their COVID stories, holding a framed print from our first encounter in their arms. 

“Face of our time” is an anthology of portraits of people of the suburbs (Fontaniva is a very small town in Northern Italy) represented as microcosm and synecdoche for the whole world.

Behind each and every subject there is a unique, significant and peculiar story of COVID and resilience.

Chiara is portrayed in her 9 square meters bedroom in Tombolo, a very small town in the north of Italy, holding a framed portrait of her face I took a month before in my studio.
Her minuscole is the place where she spent 34 days of quarantine during the COVID second wave, isolated also from the rest of her family.
As an extremely active and eclectic person, she suffered more the psychological downsides of the pandemia than the physical ones.
In Italy, depressive symptoms, suicidal tendencies, anorexia and self harm have interested the 50% of young people, especially women.
Alessandro, known as “Corvo” amongst the musicians, is a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Despite of the smile on his face, he suffered a lot the cancelation of gigs and events in the first phase of pandemic, being the music his only means of release in his everyday life and his only income. What seemed to be just temporary in 2020 is also an issue these days, with concerts still canceled and events still not permitted.
Allegro, known as Babo in the small town where he lives, is now 81 and has been a paparazzo in London for 20 years, from 1970 until 1992. I decided to shoot him in his house, a sort of museum where pictures, photos and memorabilia are hanging everywhere on the walls. During the whole pandemic, he didn’t let his camera being covered with dust on a shelf and went out as much as he could to photograph people of his town and give them words of hope and comfort. 
Giuliano and Marta: father and daughter portrayed in the garden of the design company they run together, in the suburbs of Padua. This is the only family portrait of the whole project and is certainly a peculiar one: it represents the strength and determination of two generations that decided to work together with love and passion to overcome the challenges of these hard times.
Filippo, 26, shot in his house garage in front of a vintage picture of his family company. They were among the first who produced and sold face masks and the only place you could find effective and innovative protection devices in the suburbs of Padua. Twist of fate, both his father and his grandfather got COVID in the middle of the pandemic and needed to be hospitalized, one without knowing anything about the other despite being in the same structure and just few rooms away.
His grandfather died in February, 2021.
Gianni, age 57, is a car collector and a viveur. Here he is posing with one of the many vintage cars he collects as representation of his libertine and naive lifestyle. He lives with his sister in a very big house in the suburbs of Fontaniva, a small town 90km away from Venice and he caught COVID in April, 2020. Before the pandemic he used to go to pubs and night clubs driving his vintage cars and dressed-to-kill, having great time and coming back home late at night.
Now his life has changed, he is more focused on himself and his physical and mental shape, and he is working very hard to get a steady job.
Alex, 46 years old, shot in his photo studio in front of a dark backdrop. He is a well-known events and studio photographer, used to shoot more than 40 weddings per year and taking part to many events each and every month. He suffered the non-physical effects of COVID twice: in 2020, having lost most of the planned jobs (and the related income). In 2021, being compelled to take rapid tests three times per week just to do his business and run his ordinary life. He looks tired and discouraged, as many other entrepreneurs left with no real assistance, neither economic nor psychological.
Paolo, 58, portrayed in a street in Fontaniva holding in his hands a portrait I took a couple of months before in my studio. Since the very beginning of the pandemic he decided to give his contribute as volunteer and “pimped” his car to separate with a plastic, hermetic, transparent wall the driver seat from the other ones. By doing that he has been able to drive old people from their houses to the hospital avoiding to get COVID from them or to transmit COVID to them. He probably saved many, many lives with his ingenuous trick.
Laura, 28, is a dance educator and a mother. Her story is the story of many non-competitive sport businesses oriented to kids and amateurs. Italian government decided to stop all these activities each and every time the epidemiological curve increased, not only causing organizational inconveniences but also discouraging people to practice. As a result, more than 40% of these sort of businesses have been closed in 2021 and many others are expected to do the same in the next year.
Edoardo, 30, is the youngest mayor Fontaniva has ever had. He began his mandate in 2019, with a lot of enthusiasm and great expectations. Unfortunately, only few months later, he had to face one of the most terrific issues of our times: COVID-19. His young age, instead of representing a limit, was the key of his successful attempts to overcome the pandemic and the problems related to it.
I took this photo at the end of 2021, and I found him (both in the studio session and in the on-location portrait) very tired but at the same time extremely determined and optimistic.
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Hello, I am Francesco, photographer and editor based in ITALY. info@francescoreffo.com

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