Photographer Jess Dugan has always used her camera to understand herself and the world around her. She says that when she came out as a teenager and began to openly explore her gender identity, she couldn’t find role models in the mainstream media who looked like her.
“Some of the first representations I saw of people who looked like me and my community were in photography books,” Dugan told TakePart. “That was one of the first times my identity was really validated.”
In that spirit, much of 28-year-old Dugan’s work has explored identity and gender. The photographer, who self-identifies as gender variant and as part of the transgender community, has used the camera to interrogate the fluidity of gender and challenge viewers’ perception of the often narrow confines of gender identity. Her latest project, “To Survive on This Shore,” is a series of portraits of older transgender and gender-variant people across the country.
“We’re living in a time where, for the very first time ever, we have a large, public, and vocal group of LGBT elders,” Dugan says. “It’s important to take care of them as they get older, and for me to honor them in the way that I know how through my work, and by sharing and preserving their stories.”