Performing Gender Collaboration





A new series exploring gender performance with model and friend Ron Herzog. Both of us are queer men who have been married to women and we bring a unique perspective to the work. 

These picture are  influenced by my studies of queer theory and European portraiture. 

Modelling, costumes and props by Ron Herzog. 

Photography, lighting, textures, concepts and application of photo-montage by Eureka.

Every GAMMA (Gay and Married Man) negotiates a separation from their wife in their own unique way but the experience of grief and loss is universal,  Hurting someone you love in the pursuit of your own happiness is a difficult place to emerge from 
And of course we remember our own mothers 
Many of them were thwarted professionally by the  patriarchal ideas of their fathers and husbands, so they took refuge in the things they could control-  the intimate domestic spaces of the bedroom complete with marital bed matching robes and a tri-mirrored dressing table and the formal lounge and dining area with a mirrored cabinet to show off the wedding presents and family heirlooms 

As a child I was fascinated by the sight of my mother combing her thick black locks putting on 
her make up or putting an earring on or on special occasions wearing a fur. This series has sparked reflection for both the model Ron and myself. 

Here is Ron's story in his own words

I first began reflecting upon the term “Gender Performance” after a recent photo shoot with my friend Eureka where I embraced trying on various Items from my range of vintage and antique collectibles of women’s couture. We tried to reproduce poses from famous actresses from a similar era and this has resulted in some deep reflection upon my personal life and lessons learned in an entirely unexpected way. My thoughts and lessons learned are not complete but a process of unlearning and learning that is continuing in a dynamic way from life experienced.

I knew from a very early age, with a knowing that was not rationally determined, that I was different from others in a fundamentally different and significant way! It was at a feeling depth of difference that attributed negative value deep in my being as I sensed I was different to those around me in such a profound way with no other tools to process this deep sense of “difference“ other than to place a feeling level judgement of something “wrong” with me to be hidden at all costs!

I remember being interested in dress ups and experimented with female attire. Why?  I can surmise reasons from this distant perspective but could not clearly explain why I explored that form of dress ups when other more “masculine” options were available unless the naturally more sensitive or softer aspects of my vulnerable personality enabled me to better perform the “expected” characteristics of the “feminine” role.

In themselves the terms “masculine” and “feminine” carry cultural and societal expectations and meanings that largely determine behaviour based on physiological sexual gender components rather that what I believe to be part of human characteristics. A man or woman can be both strong and sensitive, nurturing and protective etc. These are not the prerogative or responsibility of either sex but different aspects of human nature.  (These terms are so complexly loaded that my use of them will no doubt raise ire or irritation by many reading these words, which is not my intent in this attempt to explain some things I have learned and still learning to express.)

I was a very lonely kid growing up. My sense of difference and therefore “wrongness” may have caused me to not connect with others or may have projected outwards in such a way that others sensed and treated me differently.  I was sensitive, caring and not into rough play and probably drawn to others of similar spirit. It set me apart and made me a target of the bullies throughout school so much so that I have no fond memories of that period of my life.  I do recall a school camp in about year 10 (1977) when we went to Fraser National Park at Lake Eildon and a pageant was held for Miss and Mr Fraser National Park from the guys and girls from our school year level. The girls to dress as guys and the guys to dress as girls. Even with all the bullying I had experienced to this stage of schooling, for some reason I chose to enter and ended up winning the title of “Miss Fraser National Park”! I “gender performed” successfully.

t was during these teenage years that I encountered and embraced a worldview community that seemed to offer a solution to my differentness. Christianity of the Protestant evangelical kind where wrong (sin) was forgiven by God and following of His teachings and doctrines in the context of a community of faith would bring progressive transformation and a life lived pleasing to God!  This was such an attractive solution to me as I didn’t want to be different (wrong) and so I embraced this world view wholeheartedly so much that it became my career and I was very good at it!  Unfortunately it didn’t end up transforming my identity hidden deep within but became another layer or aspect or facet of my life and I carried an even deeper sense of if it was discovered who I really was I would experience even further rejection and judgement than I had feared experiencing when I was growing up and being “gay” was illegal and not a “normal” or “valid” lifestyle expression.After many wonderful and positive experiences within Christian Community and service in Australia and overseas, a beautiful and wonderful wife and 3 amazing children, the toll of trying to live inauthentically took its toll on all those involved and it was time to embark on a more authentic pathway and embrace who I was and the pain of leaving an expression of life that could no longer be lived without further damage to all involved. It was a difficult crossroads of faith and worldview conflict but I had begun to understand myself more deeply through 6 years of psychological counselling and the encouragement to embrace a worldview not fully worked out. A worldview that allowed me to be whom God had made me to be even if that didn’t fit the worldview of the community of faith that I had embraced and which employed me.

The years since this step into the unknown (2007) have been very challenging and I have continued to reflect and learn and from the many and varied roles and lives I have lived. I see that just being “gay” doesn’t fully describe me or reflect the multiple facets or aspects to being Ron. I had grown up with a “secret” to hide and in the process over the years had learned (like most of us do) to adapt to many and varied contexts of life we operate within. We are not necessarily trying to be deceptive or lie but to be accepted and appropriately engage with the context we are in and the set of culturally appropriate behaviours of that context. My highly skilled scanning of others and how I was coming across assisted me in reading appropriateness and how best to acclimatise to that as well as assess differing perspectives of others without judging but assessing aspects or “facets” of character and behaviour. People would behave in a variety of ways dependent on context and were not necessarily being untrue to themselves but revealing or operating in an appropriate manner for a particular context (perceived or expected of them). How we behave at home is often different to how we behave at work, or amongst trusted friends or a professional gathering of peers.

I learnt to behave in different contexts showing a different “facet” of my character and behaviour that was necessary or appropriate to the situation and this is generally understood and accepted but can be criticised and judged as well. We learn this ability from an early age and some we operate in more easily and others require more effort and adjustment and feel less natural and can be more stressful. In each of these contexts we exhibit aspects of our character but not the complete picture. Those who encounter us “see” us a certain way and might assume that is the extent of who we are when in reality it is only a “facet” of the precious gem or diamond that is a human life. Few people get to experience us in the full range of aspects or see the multiple “facets” at once.

Many of us learned to do so to survive in a society or family or social group that required or demanded we fit in by adhering to a range of acceptable behaviours.  Those who didn’t conform were often targeted or ostracised and occasionally celebrated.

As I have learnt to explore and adjust to various contexts during my life I have been enriched and developed skills of connection and functioning that can enhance operation across a diverse range of human experience. This is both personally enriching while increasing understanding and valuing of alternative expressions of the diversity of human dimensions or contexts.

My exploration into “gender performance” helps me to esteem those who have lived that context before me.  Helping me to appreciate the effort, time and skill required for them to function in their context and therefore admire the cost and effort that is expended to live and operate within that context rather than stand from without in criticism or judgement without experiential understanding because it is different.

Our tendency when we encounter others is to use our inbuilt/learned grid to assess and judge who/what we experience. This is quite natural and useful but is better utilised when we hold off on forming final judgements or assessment until we have a better understanding of the whole person or multiple facets that make up the rich and precious gem of the human before us.

Recently I saw part of a show about the life of “Jim Carey” well known comedian. It became clear that many in our world had only experienced certain “facets” of his character and performance and many of us have either loved or hated him especially when we discovered other aspects of his life and behaviour that we were surprised about. He himself has only been discovering in more recent years a more holistic picture of the person he truly is with the multiple facets that make up the man he is.

Another key point to remember in this learning process is that maybe there are still other “facets” to be discovered or even formed!

With deep respect to all who read this that in no way am I intending to trivialise or minimise the pain or other of your lived experience.
Sincerely, Ron Herzog


Update Midsumma February 2022

The signature image of this series Ron as the Dowager Duchess  featured  in a collaboration with sculptor David Helmers at our joint Midsumma 2022 Exhibition Into the Wild . The image is projected onto a sheet of Resin Laminated Porcelain made by  David 

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful photos, you shine through. Thank you for sharing a wonderful part of who you are.