Jess T. Dugan

(American, b. 1986; resides in St. Louis, MO)

Jess T. Dugan works within the bounds of portraiture, creating images of individuals, couples and themselves to address themes of identity, gender, intimacy, and community.  In their series Every breath we drew (2011-present), Dugan carefully constructs images that address aspects of the complex processes through which individuals form and project identity. Interested in the fluidity of gender identity and varying incarnations of masculinity, Dugan’s portraits become explorations into how we determine who we are and then represent that outwardly, through dress, body and posturing. Dugan creates intimate portraits of their sitters, often photographing them in their bedrooms and focusing on the private self. Yet the images of couples and their relationships speak to larger expressions of intimacy and desire. Using a large or medium format camera, Dugan’s images are rich in detail, exposing a level of vulnerability between photographer and sitter. This translates to the viewer, who views the images from Dugan’s vantage point. 

Another series, To Survive on this Shore (2013-ongoing) started from the recognition that older people feature very rarely in comparison with younger individuals in representations of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the media and the arts. Dugan seeks to remedy this absence by photographing trans people aged fifty or older. She has produced over eighty works for the series in collaboration with Dr. Vanessa Fabbre, assistant professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, who conducted interviews of Dugan’s subjects. The paths of their subjects range widely and reveal the complexities of living a gender that doesn’t suit one’s identity.

Jess T. Dugan completed her MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2014) and her BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA (2007).  Additionally Dugan completed a MA in Museum Studies from Harvard University (2010).  She has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Selected solo exhibitions include: Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA (2014, 2011, 2010, 2008); Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL (2012); and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA (2006).  Select group exhibitions include: Bisbane powerhouse, New Farm, Australia (2014); San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA (2013); Pingyao International Photography Festival, Pingyao, China (2013); the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO (2013); and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA (2011).