Queen, princess, femme, twink -“ depending on your stance, these are all titles that can be lobbed as insults or held onto with pride. It is this dichotomy that Dutch photographer Maarten Mourik is interested in exploring through a photo documentary capturing the lives of effeminate gay men living in western Sydney.

As a gay man who sees himself sitting somewhere between the two extremes of macho and queen, Mourik is interested in looking at the strength required by effeminate gay men to challenge the ideals of masculinity in order to be themselves. By looking to the western suburbs for subject matter, Mourik is equally interested in challenging the prejudices held within the wider community as well as those that are inherent within our own gay networks.

It is a project about gay men who go against the dominant masculine culture, Mourik said.

Even within our own community if you identify as queenie or a femme it’s not liked because so many of our icons within the gay community are those buff, muscle-bound guys who work out for hours a week -¦ let alone if you are a 16-year-old kid living out west where there is such a masculine community and everyone is into football.

It takes incredible strength to have the conviction to stand against that and just be who you are and I am fascinated by that strength of character.

Mourik has found some subjects who are willing to let him in to document their world, partly through the internet and now with a bit of help from ACON, but he is keen to find more young men who are interested in taking part.

It has been a bit difficult finding people. I mean, even if you say that it’s a documentary, people often ask, is it porn? Which it’s not, of course, he told Sydney Star Observer.

What I ask of people who participate is that they share a part of their lives with me. It is completely up to them as to which part they want to show. Sometimes people just take me around their neighbourhood or they show me their school or the park they hang out at. For me it is important to capture who they are -“ this is not about modelling or studio work.

Thanks to sponsorship from ACON, Mourik’s work will be shown as part of next year’s Mardi Gras arts festival and he is also looking to have the images published in a range of European and local magazines.

To view Mourik’s portfolio and to find out more about him, head to www.urbannature.eu. If you are interested in taking part, contact Maarten on 0432 852 855 or at life@urbannature.eu.

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