Jess T. Dugan: Every Breath We Drew


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Alex, 2012 © Jess T. Dugan  


Think of a man - I mean a real dude kind of guy. Masculinity drums up a certain image, specific ideas and blunt mannerisms. A portrait of that man can strip away assumptions and allow for a much more fleshed out identity. Most of gender is read through parts of a person's body. That body becomes fleshy and naked in its insecurity, or maybe not, it can be in a persons mind and the pieces arbitrary. Jess T. Dugan's project and new book Every Breath We Drew deals with these issues. What is gender? How is masculinity defined? Through Dugan's subjects she is able to establish intimate relationships; each individual bares their experience, there's a huge sense of comfort. Dugan's portraits build; some of the subjects have been totally marginalized by society, many of the people in the photos are given new voice, they are dynamic.

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Bucky, 2013

Every Breath We Drew is a collection of people of all different sizes, shapes, backgrounds, orientations and identifications. Dugan is fascinated by masculinity and capturing what she refers to as "vulnerable masculinity." "I find all of my subjects myself. It's hard to say exactly what it is that qualifies them. Something about my initial reaction to them." The process every step of the way is about this kind of personal intimacy. Dugan is very involved and an integral part of the photographic narrative. She uses self-portraits throughout the body of work; they become a constant. With Dugan as the familiar face throughout the photos she turns into a representation of the identifiable self. Dugan becomes anyone, in this way the viewer is interjected into the narrative through her. Suddenly her subjects are more noticeably looking at you. The conversation evolves, as the viewer is able to take control of the portraits.

There is a huge sense of community given the nature of the images. How does a person come into their body while also connecting with others? The source of this inquiry can be open ended; after all, it's highly individualized and deals in the self. The images keep pushing on a desire to seek a genteel masculinity. Dugan stresses that there is a need to redefine; masculinity is more expansive than commonly understood. The self is a starting point, as the subjects allow their comfort to creep in, more information is revealed. Light and pose play into these peoples places. All of Dugan's images are crafted in the subject's home where they could be most susceptible to allowing an authentic moment to play out. Dugan's frames are slow, the thinking and consideration to the environment is evident, and each moment retains a charged emotion.    

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Colby, 2012

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Ryan and Josh, 2013

Every Breath We Drew has a very concise interest, however it's crafted by a broad pressing of intent. The portraits are full of unexpected juxtapositions. People are somber, they are gay, they are with child, and without specificity. A person is a glorious hairy mess. And even though the work is very interconnected to the LGBT community the feeling of the work goes deeper than assumptions, conditions, or titles. It should be said that it doesn't matter who these people love or how they love, it's how they pose themselves that allows them to be themselves.

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Herb, 2013

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Taan, 2012 

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Kim, 2014

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Tim, 2014

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Self-Portrait, 2012

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Elle, 2012
all images © Jess T. Dugan
 

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