WELL before Rogan Richards entered the porn industry he said he was a socially awkward teenager suffering from depression.

“The way I overcame my issues was to battle them head first,” he told the Star Observer.

“I was afraid to get naked in front of other boys so I made myself get naked in front of them and at the same time started making myself look like what I considered sexy, that’s why I started bodybuilding.

“As the clothes became less, the confidence and self love grew.”

Today Richards is one of Australia’s biggest porn exports, and he recently produced six images for the Victorian AIDS Council’s (VAC) Down and Dirty campaign to be displayed at the Company of Men exhibition.

“I also submitted a large epic piece of my own to commemorate the launch of my site this year, which pays homage to the porn industry that made me a bedroom name,” he said.

The Company of Men, which opens tonight in Melbourne for Midsumma before heading to Sydney for Mardi Gras, is a multi art form exhibition where artists showcase work exploring masculinity and male sexuality through the lens of being a gay, bisexual, or trans man.

The exhibition presents both local and international artists — such as Pär Åhlander, Antonio Da Silva, Nik Dimopoulos, Antony Makhlouf, Gareth Ernst, Damien Hinds and more — and aims to create discussions around gay sex and masculine identity, as well as HIV and censorship.

Richards believes expressing sex and sexuality through mediums like porn, photography and art is significant.

“There is still so much confusion, uncertainty, and hatred within our community that art is still a powerful weapon to communicate and educate people,” he said.

“It’s fundamentally the freest form of open expression.

“I can’t speak for anyone else but if I can provoke a positive thought or challenge a negative thought created by society through my art then I’m stoked.”

VAC health educator Carlos Sepulveda was one of the people who commissioned Richards’ work for the exhibition.

“The beauty of Company of Men is that it embraces constructive discussions and encourages the audience to gain new understandings around concepts such as masculinity and male sexuality,” he told the Star Observer.

“We commissioned two artists [Rogan Richards and Kiarash Zangeneh] from our community to produce images to illustrate different issues related to gay, bisexual, and trans men.

“The images produced provide a little window into the artists’ identity.”

The Company of Men opens on tonight (Thursday, January 21) at 7pm at Brightspace in St Kilda, Melbourne and will run until February 6. It will then move to Sydney for the Mardi Gras festival. For free tickets and details, click here

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Midsumma.

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