Every breath we drew explores the power of identity, desire, and connection through portraits of myself and others. Working within the framework of queer experience and from my actively constructed sense of masculinity, my portraits examine the intersection between private, individual identity and the search for intimate connection with others. I photograph people in their homes, often in their bedrooms, using medium and large format cameras to create a deep, sustained engagement, resulting in an intimate and detailed portrait.
I combine formal portraits, images of couples, self-portraits, and photographs of my own romantic relationship to investigate broader themes of identity and connection while also speaking to my private, individual experience. The photographs of men and masculine individuals act as a kind of mirror; they depict the type of gentle masculinity I am attracted to, yet also the kind I want to embody. Similarly, the photographs of relationships speak to a drive to be seen, understood, and desired through the eyes of a another person; a reflection of the self as the ultimate intimate connection.
By asking others to be vulnerable with me through the act of being photographed, I am laying claim to what I find beautiful and powerful while asking larger questions about how identity is formed, desire is expressed, and intimate connection is sought.
Jess T. Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community. Dugan holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, a Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies from Harvard University, and a BFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Dugan’s work has been exhibited internationally at the San Diego Museum of Art, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, the Catherine Edelman Gallery, the Grey House Gallery in Krakow, Poland, the Griffin Museum of Photography, Gallery Kayafas, Carroll and Sons Gallery, the Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, and at many colleges and universities nationwide.
Dugan’s photographs have been featured in the New York Times, CNN, The Advocate, Slate, The Huffington Post, and the Boston Globe.
Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Harvard Art Museums, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, the DePaul Art Museum, Fidelity Investments, JP Morgan Chase, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Her work is also included in the Midwest Photographer’s Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL.
Coinciding with her exhibition at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Dugan’s first monograph Every breath we drew was published in 2015 by Daylight Books. Dugan is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and was selected by the White House as a 2015 Champion of Change.