Jess Dugan

Since 2005, I have been photographing within the transgender and gender variant community, creating images that speak to the infinite variations of gender identity and expression.  I am interested in examining how deeply gender norms have become embedded into our society.  In addition to the more obvious physical identifiers of clothing and hairstyle, there are intangibles- our emotions, scents, and actions, which often are attributed to a specific gender.  Through my images, I challenge these norms and give a voice to those who question and fight them every day.  I strive to create aesthetically beautiful photographs in order to attract a viewer who may otherwise shy away from the subject matter, fusing a classical style with a contemporary subject and creating a forum through which a wider audience can relate to people living a different experience from their own.

My photographs are an exploration into humanity, depicting what makes each of us who we are while striving to make a universal connection and shared understanding out of something very specific and detailed.  I want the viewer to recognize a part of themselves in my photographs, regardless of their identity or background.  I hope to inspire a feeling that we are all part of something larger, and that while we all have our differences, there is something burning, recognizable, and alive in each of us.

As the project has expanded, it has become more and more difficult for me to define the boundaries of its inclusion.  Though most of the subjects identify, in some way, as transgender, others do not.  The project encompasses people of many gender variations, including women who are perceived as butch or masculine who do not self-identify as transgender but whose identities challenge traditional gender stereotypes and expectations.  It is the blurring of boundaries and the ambiguity of each person’s specific identity that makes the most honest statement about who we are as people.


Self-Portrait with Mom, Cambridge, Massachusetts Produced 2005 by Jess Dugan


Calvin, Easthampton, Massachusetts Produced 2008 by Jess Dugan


Corinne and Travis, Roxbury, Massachusetts Produced 2006 by Jess Dugan


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