Jess T. Dugan (American, b. 1986 Biloxi, MS) is an artist whose work explores issues of identity, gender, sexuality, and community. She received her MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2014), her Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies from Harvard University (2010), and her BFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (2007). 

Dugan has exhibited at venues including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Aperture Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, the Catherine Edelman Gallery, The Transformer Station, and at many colleges and universities throughout the United States. 

Public collections include the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Harvard Art Museums, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation, the Smith College Museum of Art, Light Work, Fidelity Investments, JP Morgan Chase, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

Dugan’s first monograph Every Breath We Drew was published in 2015 by Daylight Books and coincided with a solo exhibition at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Her second monograph, To Survive on This Shore, was published in 2018 by Kehrer Verlag and will be released in the United States alongside a solo exhibition at projects+gallery in St. Louis, MO in September 2018. 

Dugan is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, an Artist Fellowship from the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, and was selected by the White House as a 2015 Champion of Change. In 2016, she was honored as a Commended Artist by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. for her photograph Self-Portrait (Muscle Shirt), exhibited in The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today. In 2018, she was an artist-in-residence at Light Work at Syracuse University and was the recipient of the Women Photograph + Nikon Grant. 

Dugan teaches workshops at venues including the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, CO, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, and Filter Photo in Chicago, IL. In 2015, she founded the Strange Fire Artist Collective to highlight work made by women, people of color, and LGBTQ artists. She is represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, IL.

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: To Survive on This Shore

To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults / 2013–2018

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 have 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 photographs and interviews provide 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.


SueZie, 51, and Cheryl, 55, Valrico, FL, 2015 © Jess T. Dugan


Caprice, 55, Chicago, IL, 2015 © Jess T. Dugan

Aidan, 52, Burien, WA,2016 © Jess T. Dugan


When and where did To Survive on This Shore begin?

This project began in 2013 and concluded in 2018. Made over a five-year period, this project is a collaboration with Vanessa Fabbre, a social worker and Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Where do you see this project going?

The project was recently published as a hardcover book by Kehrer Verlag. The work has been previously exhibited in group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL and at the Photoforum Pasquart Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, but the first solo exhibition will take place this September/October at projects+gallery in St. Louis. The official book release will take place at the opening reception on September 13, 2018.

In addition, we are currently planning book release events throughout the country and have confirmed events in Chicago, Tulsa, and Boston. 

The project is also available as a limited-edition portfolio designed specifically for college and university art museums and teaching collections. More information about that can be found here: 

We are also planning to collaborate with several nonprofit organizations to use work from the project in their educational programs and for advocacy initiatives.


Stephanie, 64, St. Louis, MO, 2014 © Jess T. Dugan


What’s next for you?

Launching the book and exhibition for To Survive on This Shore is the biggest news. But, I currently have quite a few exhibitions and other projects planned for the coming year. Full information about those can be found here: