Amos Mac is a talented photographer and a bit of a trailblazer. Along with his friend and co-creator Rocco Kayiatos, they publish Original Plumbing (OP), a groundbreaking quarterly publication that documents diversity within the trans male lifestyle. Mac and Kayiatos, also trans men, have created an incredibly important publication in OP; one that offers an intimate peek inside the lives and experiences of its models through honest, striking photographs, essays, personal narratives, and interviews.
Zackary Drucker is a Los Angeles-based performance artist and filmmaker. Her slight frame gives the impression that she is fragile, but she is anything but. Her work is confrontational and unapologetic. Drucker’s notorious piece “The Inability to be Looked at and the Horror of Nothing to See” featured a prerecorded tape of Drucker’s voice instructing audience members to pluck out her body hairs with tweezers as she lay on a table with a steel ball in her mouth wearing only underwear and a blond wig. For those audience members experiencing trepidation, the pre-recorded tape urged them on: “Don’t be afraid, the bitch can take it.”
Drucker is also a trans artist and when the two met at an OP fundraiser in 2009, it left a lasting impression on Mac. About a year later when he decided to venture off on his own with a new project, Drucker was the first person he wanted in his new photographic periodical that would showcase a single trans woman. What resulted was Translady Fanzine, which features intimate photographs of Drucker taken in her childhood home over the course of four days in December of 2010. The periodical also showcases beautifully written, deeply touching letters between Mac and Drucker about their shared experiences as trans individuals and their differences as man and woman.
Translady Fanzine is set to be released this fall. Drucker’s currently working on a new film project and Mac just finished directing a chapter of Valencia, a film adaptation of Michelle Tea’s book, but both took the time to talk to me about their collaboration:
What were your first impressions of each other and each other’s work?
Amos Mac: Our mutual friend curated a release event in L.A. around OP’s 2nd issue, consisting of films, a photo exhibition, and an interactive “mustache station.” Zackary’s film FISH was playing and I remember being obsessed with all the terms they were throwing around in the film even though I didn’t know what most of them meant. Later on Zackary introduced me to the Queens’ Vernacular and I was able to look up all the terms she used in that film. It opened my eyes up to the importance of our history as trans people and the language that surrounds it.
Zackary Drucker: I thought Original Plumbing was a really impressive project — to document and create a visual community around trans masculine folks. I didn’t really get to know Amos until we drove to my parent’s house in Upstate NY and made the images for Translady Fanzine; so the project and the images therein really represent the beginning of our friendship.
Amos, in Translady Fanzine you write that you wanted to “bridge the experience between trans woman and trans man” as visual proof of your combined existence. Now that the project is out in the world, do you feel you met this goal?
AM: Yes, absolutely. We’re talking about just one experience, of course. One “bridged experience” between one trans man and one trans woman. I’m not trying to represent entire communities or bodies of people in this project. I am personally trying to create an artistic connection one person at a time and have it reflected through my art to open the eyes of other people, so in that context I did meet my goal.
Zackary, what did you find appealing about Amos’ initial idea for this new project?
ZD: The series plays with voyeurism — Amos gaining access to a whole section of my history that has been relatively private or undocumented in my work as an artist. The thing that has always drawn me to photography as a medium is the intimacy and relationship created between spectacle and spectator, and I was interested in seeing what kind of dynamic shift was possible when the person behind the camera was a trans guy. I’ve been photographed, projected upon, and sexualized by plenty of photographers, but how would it be different with another trans person, and one of opposite identification furthermore, with our experiences within the world being so simultaneously similar and exactly opposite?
In Translady Fanzine, Zackary writes about the importance of “fans” for trans people because of the barriers they encounter, because of the shame they experience, and simply, because they deserve them. What do you hope Translady Fanzine does as it makes its way around and reaches potential fans from all walks of life? What do you hope the images convey?
AM: Beyond the images, I hope that by including Zackary’s written words and personal story it will open people’s minds a bit. Specifically people who may know little to nothing about trans women, or who primarily view trans women in a fetishistic light, or have pre-conceived notions of what a transsexual woman is or comes from. While she is just one trans woman in the world, her story and willingness to talk about it is fundamental towards truth and visibility for those who want that. I always find it important to let the trans models I work with on publishing projects speak for themselves because too often the media focuses on “the surgery” or “the hormones” and — guess what? Trans people are human beings with much more going on in their lives besides that.
ZD: Perhaps it’s too early to gauge the success of the project amongst a consuming audience, but I feel like we accomplished something epic by simply imagining that it was possible.
Was there an initial feel or look you wanted when shooting Zackary or did you just sort of take things as they came?
AM: The idea was to meet up in NYC, then drive to Syracuse together and create a body of work in collaboration. There wasn’t much planned beyond that. She came up with the idea of shooting on her high school football field and we both took it from there and stayed within the theme of home town surroundings and exclusively shot in almost every room in the house she grew up in, as well as in her best friend’s bedroom from childhood, and even some at the local mall.
Amos Mac's favorite image of Zackary from Translady Fanzine
What is your favorite image of Zackary?
AM: It’s Zackary standing in front of her parent’s front door that is covered in Christmas cards. To me, the holiday cards represent a heteronormativity that exists within a lot of family structures, and one that the older I get, I personally cannot identify or wrap my head around at all. I think Zackary looks so strong and uncompromising in front of that door, like she’s adding her own layer to those cards and representing her own complex, queer class.
What is your goal for future issues of Translady Fanzine and the direction they will take?
AM: It’s going to be an annual release and I plan to change the way it’s produced and presented each time and a lot of how it will look will depend on the model. The next issue could look like a newspaper or something completely different. There isn’t a set format for the periodical at this point and that’s part of what I love — the freedom of not feeling locked down to a specific composition.