Identity and social connection are driving forces in my life and work, and I have long been drawn to making photographic portraits in pursuit of a deeper understanding of these human experiences. Over the past fifteen years, my photographs have explored issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community, shifting between an internally focused, subjective examination of myself and an outwardly focused, socially and politically motivated documentation of the LGBTQ community. These perspectives are inextricably linked; my personal identity as a queer person is inherently political, and the open portrayal of my body, experiences, and family creates a platform from which I can intimately engage with others.
Although my investigation surrounding identity was born out of personal experience, my focus has continually expanded outward, centering around the process through which we each come to know our authentic selves and the difficulties that arise when we assert those selves within constraining environments.
Formally, I use medium and large-format cameras, natural light, and a slow working method to combine a traditional style of photographing with contemporary subject matter. My work does not attempt to provide definitive answers; rather, it invites viewers to engage with others in an intimate, meaningful way, requiring them to reflect on their own identities in the process.
Every Breath We Drew
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. Rather than attempting to describe a specific identity or group – the gender identity and sexual orientation of the individuals varies – Every Breath We Drew asks larger questions about how identity is formed, desire is expressed, and intimate connection is sought.
Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from our culture and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. For over five years, photographer Jess T. Dugan and social worker Vanessa Fabbre traveled throughout the United States creating To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults. Seeking subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location, they traveled from coast to coast, to big cities and small towns, documenting the life stories of this important but largely underrepresented group of older adults. The featured individuals share a wide variety of life narratives spanning the last ninety years, offering an important historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States. The resulting portraits and narratives offer a nuanced view into the struggles and joys of growing older as a transgender person and offer a poignant reflection on what it means to live authentically despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
The full project can be viewed at www.tosurviveonthisshore.com.
To Survive on