The whole notion of gender has been a lifelong journey I did not know I was on. I knew I was a boy, later a man, but somehow wondered whether I was a “real” boy since my mother did not quite think so… not aggressive nor assertive enough, not competitive enough, not good/interested enough at football or team sports… but fixing our household appliances from the age of eight, fiddling with anything technical I could lay my hands on, winning a science prize in electronics, collecting scrapes, bumps, bruises like others stamps… never a “proper boy”. I could as little tell what was wrong with me as I would be able to fix it.
40 years on, I see myself unequivocally as a gay man, yet paradoxically without the faintest idea of what a man is. My own sexual explorations have taught me that men are neither defined by the presence of a y-chromosome nor their genitals or anatomy. Though I am quite aware that men are not defined by my sexual attraction to them, either. What then are we?
And what are women? I have no answers to these questions and that is unequivocally a good thing. Since my youth, I see all ways of being a woman, some of those I am surprised to see still around. Masculinity likewise. All we know these days, we are what we are, and we want the world to ‘like’ us for it. Empowerment is everywhere?
In a time of fluid definitions and identities, the signals we send cannot apparently be too loud. Make-up, fingernails, clothes, hair, language, beards – a whole dictionary’s worth full of code to announce us to the world.
Watching myself, I discover ways of thinking, feeling, moving, speaking that carry vague reverberations of the masculine and the feminine. I see it in everyone, too, of course, irregardless of questions of styling or life roles. I feel it mostly within my own body, how it moves, how my voice sounds, or how it responds and how I respond. How we smoke a cigarette, hold a spoon, tilt our head, frown, smile, cross our legs, close our eyes, how we stand up or sit down, unthinkingly or self-aware… everything is perceived and interpreted in a way we neither intend nor control.
This group of photographs is of people I know. They are naked because I want to focus on the body and its expressions, positions and gestures. The pictures were taken in their homes because exploring body language is an intimate affair. I may intervene or not. As much as these images are portraits, they are addressing themselves to the viewer: What do I feel? What are my assumptions about the person? How would they dress? Whom would they shag, whom love? What do they do? Why may I think any of this?