jess t. dugan


Jess T. Dugan. Every Breath We Drew

Jet, 2013.

Herb, 2013.

Vanessa, 2013.

Connor, 2012.

Betsy, 2013.

Jess and Korrie, 2012.

Every breath we drew (2011- )                                                                  

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.

Susanna and Scout, from Jess T. Dugan’s Coupled:

Coupled is a series of twenty large-format Polaroid photographs of queer couples, taken between 2006 and 2008. Every person has some connection to a female identity, whether past or present. The images are direct and posed, with the same lighting and bold, red background in each image in an attempt to direct the focus entirely onto the subject. The couples are simultaneously unique and similar, becoming almost specimens of a cultural group through repetition of composition. While the images portray a specific group of couples at a historic time, they also raise universal questions about attraction, love, and the nature of relationships.


Jess T. Dugan. Transcendence I, 2005-2010.

Corinne and Travis, 2006.

Ryan and Alex, 2006.

Melsen, 2007.

Nate, 2009.

Amanda, 2006.

Elena, 2006.

Amy in the rain, 2006.

Fighter (self-portrait), 2006.

Transcendence (2005-2012)                                                                      

In our society, it is assumed that there are only two genders, both of which come with very specific expectations and roles.  I aim to challenge that assumption by portraying people whose identity falls outside of these preconceived notions.  Transcendence is a collection of portraits within the transgender and gender variant community.  These photographs show that there are an endless number of gender identities, specific to each person, while illustrating that gender identity and biological sex are two distinct constructs.  More broadly, they call into question societal expectations about gender roles and how these expectations affect everyone, including those who are not a part of the transgender community.

Through sharing individual experiences, this work honestly and openly portrays a community that is often overlooked, fetishized, or misrepresented.  It raises a dialogue about the fluidity of gender and the ways in which our current societal structure does not allow for variations outside of the mainstream.  In an effort to increase understanding, these images portray issues unique to the transgender community while also highlighting the shared experience of being human.