Transgender Couple Photographs Their Opposite Transitions
Artists capture their love affair, bring 'queer culture' to forefront.
May 19, 2014— -- Transgender artists Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst are transitioning in opposite directions and have captured their individual transformations in the "Relationship" series, a collection of photographs on exhibit as part of Biennial 2014 at The Whitney Museum of American Art from March 7 to May 25.
The photo series is an intimate diary of the couple's love affair and their gender identity transitions -- Drucker from male to female and Ernst from female to male. The photos span five years of their relationship from 2008 to 2013. The photographs include tender embraces, their bandaged bodies from hormone injections and also shots of Drucker's growing breasts.
Drucker, 31, was born male in Syracuse, N.Y., and is a graduate of The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Ernst, 31, was born female in Pomona, Calif., and graduated from Hampshire College. She had appeared on a TV reality show "Artstar," and he had been working for MTV when the couple met in 2005. They now live in Los Angeles. The pair have recently been hired to act as advisers on Amazon's new original series, "Transparent."
Going public with their photographs as their relationship progressed seemed "organic," Ernst told ABC News.
"We stepped back and we had a huge body of work. It felt like a natural choice. We didn't think about being in the closet. It's faithful to our lives and has a lot of layers, not just to do with gender."
Drucker told ABC News their project was "was an impulse to investigate and to record and to be an inspiration."
The installation is part of three collaborative projects by Drucker, who is a photographer, filmmaker and performance artist, and Ernst, a director and filmmaker. They have also staged several events at the Whitney, including a screening of their film, "She Gone Rogue," a series of tarot card readings with the drag queen Flawless Sabrina, which sold out.
"We have been very fortune to have had supportive family," said Drucker. "Much of that has to do with our socioeconomic background -- also being white. Lots of trans people are in very dangerous, precarious situations because our culture does not create space for people who exist outside the binary. These insidious elements of gender policing trickle down and effect all of us."
But, added Ernst, "the biggest struggle for us outside being trans is more about being emerging artists and struggling and trying to figure out how to pay our bills and make a living. Practicing our art has been really hard."
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