Male becomes female. Female becomes male. Life becomes art. Private becomes public.
With those words Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst present their book, Relationship. Two lovers found the path to love and understanding through otherness. What becomes of a couple that attempts to comprehend one another in the most intimate level? Zachary and Rhys danced together at a party in 2005; at least they claim there’s a Myspace picture that proves that. But it wasn’t until 2008 when they officially fell in love and got together. What makes their relationship stand out from others is that they are a trans couple. They captured their transitions, Zach from male to female and Rhys from female to male, over the course of six years.
Both portraits are intimate yet powerful. Both of them are visual artists who decided that during these changes, their support would surpass presence. This documentary became proof to themselves and the world of the different transformations of life, environment, as well as those closest to them that entail a transition such as this. Beyond being a perfect artistic portrait (since the images have been compared to those of Larry Clark and Cindy Sherman), the artists took pictures capturing the vulnerable aspects of their daily lives, framing everyday moments that changed their existence. Ellyn Kall from Featureshoot was right to call them “family photos.”
The transformations are evident. The relationship began in 2008 and so did the project. At the time both parties’ processes were well underway, but by 2013 the changes were even more obvious. Amidst photographs of a body being injected with hormones, a woman hugging herself as her gaze tells us what a thousand worlds could not, or the portrait of Zachary’s developing breasts, we as viewers are submerged into the intimate setting of their Los Angeles home.
The hormone treatments are simply the means for them to achieve who they really are. Perhaps Zachary was raised as a male but the artist knew that their true gender was female. The hormones and the makeover were never about a change of identity. She is an artist fighting for trans rights through filmmaking. Relationship captures the transition through images to highlight a juxtaposed narrative in order for manifest the polarity of her relationship with Rhys: Love and Loneliness.
Aside from Relationship, Zachary gives his voice to the community through personal projects such as Translady Fanzine, where he does more structured self-portraits. However, these images use a separate aesthetic and show his psyche beyond spontaneity. Thigh-high boots, heels, dresses, even a mouth taped shut symbolizing the different types of silence, are just some of his images.
Zachary has collaborated as a producer for the documentary series This is Me, which captures the everyday routines of several trans folk. An episode called “And my sisters” portrays the violence endured on the streets of the United States with first hand testimonies from Zachary, as well as preventative measures against violence (as well as the documentary that works as a powerful protest tool).
On Rhy’s part, the artist works on more long term narratives. He was involved in the creation of This is Me and has participated in the Whitney Biennial, Sundance, and the Chicago International Festival, among others. He’s currently working on the series We’ve Been Around where he shoots several short documentaries on trans pioneers.
This relationship was built on love, tenderness, and respect. Which is why, like millions of other couples, Zachary and Rhys are no longer together. Relationship is a footprint of a couple that dare to love one another despite prejudice and threats. It’s the portrait of young love that, while united was true and passionate. Relationship is the face of true love that can dissolve but never be forgotten.
Translated by María Suárez