Gender Project unofficially started in 2016 when Ronnie’s friend, Elliot, came saying: ‘I really like to wear women’s clothes, wigs, and doing make-up. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I like to feel different’. For Ronnie was not ‘different’, but another side of them to explore. That was the hint to organize a photoshoot in their London flat that turned into hours of conversation about gender roles and society, and also into the cover of the first exhibition of Gender Project in London (2019).
The next day Ronnie felt that something had clicked and it was time to act upon it. After digging into terminologies, legal regulations and studies, they wrote a manifesto and an open call looking for people to come half naked to tell their story in front of the camera in their place -a stranger’s apartment. After a deep breath, they posted online. Ten hours later there were 65 applications: a total -unexpected and scary- success.
A hundred portraits in each of these four major cities: London (2019), Milano (2020), Roma (2021) and Berlin (2022). How to approach everyone’s individuality and also not turn it into something repetitive?
I believe that everyone has a superpower and I try to discover it while shooting. A lot of people talk about coming out of the closet, but no one talks about walking inside of it. That is also a hard part, where you have to take not only your clothes but the layers in which society has shaped you. Then you are truly naked and being yourself can be fucking scary. I try to capture that exact moment in my people, and that is very unique to each of them, therefore never will be the same. Everyone chooses how they want to come into the shoot, I don’t add directions on grooming or styling, I see myself more as a tool to give them a space.
In this uniqueness that each one carries, how do you approach the usage of ‘labels’ about gender and sexual identities?
I believe that we need labels on a first stage to get to know what we have in front of us. Is like having salt and pepper on the table: they might look exactly the same but if you don’t label them you can make a mess on what you are eating. At first, it is something necessary. It gives you information to understand better, to do your research. Then afterwards it becomes a different thing.
We keep talking about pronouns, labeling, and the right way to communicate, etcétera. I believe they are already incorporated in the world. They are essential but I would love people to start talking about legal regulations because this is what we are missing.
It is almost 2023, I don’t believe nowadays, at least on this side of the world, that someone hasn’t heard of those concepts. It has been in everybody’s face for the past years. If people don’t want to acknowledge them that is not the problem of the queer community, it is their problem. So I would rather invite people to talk about what we actually need in the legal system, because we still have some of us afraid of actually just going on the streets.