To Survive on This Shore:

Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults
By Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre

  • Duration
    August 16 – December 10, 2022
  • Works by
    Jess T. Duggan and Vanessa Fabbre
  • Organized by
    Barrett Barrera Projects, and coordinated for the Newcomb Art Museum by Curator Laura Blereau and Curatorial Assistant Alex Landry

Jess T. Dugan is a photography-based artist whose work explores issues of identity, gender, sexuality and community. For over five years, Dugan traveled throughout the United States to create To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults in collaboration with Vanessa Fabbre, a social worker and Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, whose research focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ issues and aging. 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 project represents 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 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.

The exhibition features 22 selected portraits and interviews conducted with 88 individuals throughout the United States. It is accompanied by a monograph published by Kehrer Verlag that includes 65 portraits and interviews as well as an interview by Karen Irvine, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. 

About the Artists

Jess T. Dugan (American, b. 1986 Biloxi, MS) received their MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, their Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies from Harvard University, and their BFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Dugan’s work has been widely exhibited and is in the permanent collections of over 40 museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the International Center of Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Library of Congress.

Dugan’s monographs include Look at me like you love me (MACK, 2022), To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults (Kehrer Verlag, 2018) and Every Breath We Drew (Daylight Books, 2015).

They are the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, an ICP Infinity Award, and were selected by the Obama White House as an LGBT Artist Champion of Change. Dugan’s editorial clients include the ACLU Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, and TIME.

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, they cofounded the Strange Fire Collective to highlight work made by women, people of color, and LGBTQ artists. For the 2020-2021 academic year, Dugan was the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Teaching Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis.

Vanessa Fabbre, PhD, LCSW, is an Associate Professor at the Brown School of Social Work and Affiliate Faculty in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Vanessa’s research explores the conditions under which LGBTQ people age well, and what this means in the context of structural forces such as heteronormativity, heterosexism, and transphobia.

Her research has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Social Work, The Gerontologist, the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, and the Journal of Urban Health.

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