36 powerful photos by Jess Dugan capture the strength in vulnerability


Chicago photographer Jess T. Dugan has made a name for herself with her startlingly sharp, clear portraits – the result of her search for the definition of masculine and feminine identity, togetherness and isolation, and the nature of desire. Her exhibit Every breath we drew is currently hanging at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, where she will give a lecture Thursday, Nov. 5.

“I want my viewers to be in this position of intimacy with the subject,” Dugan told us recently. By placing people in their homes, often in their bedrooms, sometimes unclothed, she says, “viewers might question assumptions they had about that person, or the LGBT community in general.”

Every breath we drew,” confesses Dugan, “was so much about this desire for intimacy – and came out of a sense of loneliness or searching.”

In the mainstream cis world, male and female roles are clear, even though these roles shift and change with the times. In the transgender world, to which many of these subjects belong, gender roles and the subject’s identities cross over each other. Dugan says, “I wanted to document how we each come to truly understand and embrace our authentic selves and then, from that authenticity, how we seek connection with others.”

Every breath we drew is on view at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, through Jan. 3, 2016.

| Photos by Jess T. Dugan