Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interview on Two Way Lens and some other fun announcements

I am thrilled to have been interviewed by Michael Werner for his blog, Two Way Lens.  Michael has interviewed a variety of amazing photographers about their work and their careers and I'm honored to be included.  A huge thank-you to Michael for his interest in my work!

Cut, Healed, Mine: Processing Top Surgery now has a blog where you can see the work in the show and read about the artists.  The actual show is up through January at The Meeting Point in Boston for those who would like to see it in person.

I am also honored to have a photograph in Aline Smithson's Family Exhibition on Lenscratch, an absolutely wonderful blog that is always chock-full of work by interesting photographers.

Take a look at these three wonderful websites if you have a chance, and thanks to everyone for your support!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A thank-you note

Within the past week, I have had several experiences that have left me moved, inspired, and amazed at how photography acts as a means of connection and intimacy for me, in the most surprising ways.

Over the weekend, I did a photoshoot for The (Trans)Gender Series, and I can't wait to develop the film.  I have been working on this project for so many years that the amount of time I spend on it necessarily ebbs and flows.  This is partially due to the fact that I prefer to meet subjects in a more natural way than taking out an ad looking for trans or gender variant folks.  There are times when I have a long list of people to photograph and there are times when I don't, and I focus on other projects.  Recently, I've had a resurgence of opportunities to work on this project and to share the work with others.  Just this fall, I have had photos from The (Trans)Gender Series in 3 shows, which has led me to meet new people and hear their stories.  I have also been inspired by recent events such as hearing Ivan E. Coyote and S. Bear Bergman read, the I AM: Trans People Speak campaign that the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition released last week, the Cut, Healed, Mine show at The Meeting Point, and many other events and experiences.  I was recently contacted by someone expressing his interest in being photographed for this series, and he set up a photo shoot for me with 7 transguys!  I am very much looking forward to this shoot and am humbled by his interest and generosity of his time and energy.  

My favorite part about photography is that it connects me with people in a way that I would completely miss out on if I weren't photographing them.  I find myself hearing very personal stories and am humbled that people feel safe enough to share these stories with me.  I photographed someone this past week for A Place so as to Stay, and because she had seen the photograph of myself and my mom on my website, we got into a very personal conversation about my journey as well as recent struggles she had been going through.  I found this experience particularly moving because we hardly knew each other prior to the shoot, and the photo I had asked to take of her wasn't about gender or  surgery in any way.  I was reminded that by putting myself out there, I am opening up a door for other people to put themselves out there in an equally intimate way.  I was still reeling from this wonderful experience when I got two e-mails from people I have never met before, asking me about my experience with chest surgery and thanking me for making my work, telling me it helped inspire them to be who they are.  This kind of feedback is what I live for, why I make my work, why I find photography so compelling.  It connects me with people, and them with me, and hopefully with others, in a way that is unique to this particular form of expression.  It has the power to start dialogue and to change minds and hearts.  

Sometimes I get so focused on things like balancing exhibition deadlines, scheduling photo shoots, and making time to work in the darkroom that I need these sorts of intimate experiences to cause me to take a step back from the practicality of it all and remind me why I do what I do.  While most of my writing and talking about my work emphasizes the exciting parts of being a photographer, like meeting amazing people and having exhibitions, there are also times when it feels hard, both to be a genderqueer person in a binary society and to be trying to positively affect the world through photography.  

So thank you to everyone who has so generously sat for a photograph, to everyone who has shared their life with me, and to everyone who has written or told me such kind words about my work.  I appreciate it all more than you know.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A few new photos

Here are a few new photos from A Place so as to Stay.  In all honesty, I took them in July/August but am just now getting them scanned and online.  I especially love the photograph of Amiee, the wonderful piercer in Provincetown.  I showed up one sleepy Sunday morning in August to take her photo, and while I was waiting for her to finish a piercing, I met Stephen (below) and found him too beautiful to not photograph.  I love chance meetings like that. 

Amiee in her piercing shop, 2010

 Stephen, 2010

Wishing, 2010

Angela, Volunteer at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Photos from Cut, Healed, Mine

The opening of Cut, Healed, Mine: Processing Top Surgery was a wonderful and moving experience.  I am so honored to have work in this important show and to be a part of an amazing queer community here in Boston.  A huge thanks goes to Taan Shapiro for organizing the show and to AndreA of The Meeting Point for giving space for the show to be hung there.

This week has been full of inspiration.  Within a matter of a few days, I was lucky enough to attend this fabulous opening as well as the Dangerous Mammals Tour: Please don't feed or tease the animals, where Ivan Coyote and S. Bear Bergman read their amazing, honest, gut-wrenching writing.  I am so thankful to have a community of my people around me and to have the opportunity to be inspired by the creative work of others in a way that fuels me forward with my own work and in my own life.

I am proud to be queer.  I am proud to be butch.  I am proud to be an artist.  And, I'm proud of my history, of all of the butches and queers who have come before me and paved the way for me to be who I am.  For them, I wear a tattooed star on my left wrist, a reminder of the power and strength of solidarity and the monumental fight it took to begin to pave the way for the younger generation of queers such as myself.  Thank you, gender warriors, past and present, for being true to yourselves and for fighting right alongside me.  You are my people.

Below are some photos from the opening of Cut, Healed, Mine:

Me and Taan, the show's organizer

Mycroft and me

Alex and me

Me and Elizabeth

The crowd listening to the artists speak

My photograph Corinne and Travis

Untitled by Caden Muekiner

Drains on Taan by Laura Evonne Steinman (top) and 
Xander by Haeden Roswell Peaslee (bottom) 

Healing Taan by Laura Evonne Steinman

My photographs Self-portrait with mom (left) and Calvin (right)

Me with my work

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation

I am thrilled that my image Julee in Drag is featured in an article about the 2010 Great LGBTQ Photo Show in The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation.  The author, Enrico Gomez, wrote:

"The gender focus took on a playful edge in Julee in Drag by Jess T. Dugan.  A part of Dugan's (Trans)Gender Series, drag king Julee squints into the camera, mustachioed and James Dean like, oozing a restrained swagger.  From the artist's blog, photographer Dugan shares 'gender sometimes seems to me as a uniform, something malleable.  The pictures of drag kings also sometimes seem that way: a hyper-caricaturized masculinity that individuals can put on and take off.'"

I am especially fond of the phrase "oozing a restrained swagger."  I had never thought about it quite that way before, but I think it is an accurate description of Julee in this particular photograph.

Thanks to the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation for putting on such an amazing show and for publishing such an amazing journal!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lots going on

Whew, it's been a busy few weeks!  I spent the weekend photographing at Open View Farm, which was absolutely wonderful.  It's hard to believe that I'm 6 months into the project.  Every trip yields new portraits that I'm so excited about, and the project continues to grow and get more complex.  I'm going to work on getting everything scanned in the next week, so expect some new photos here shortly!

Another aspect of the project that I have been really enjoying is making audio interviews with everyone who lives or works on the farm.  This past weekend, I made new audio interviews with Dan and Kyla, two farmers and all around cool people.  I am so inspired by hearing their stories of what led them to farming and the political and social implications of their decisions.  Choosing to live a life where the goal is simultaneously living self-sufficiently and fostering an intentional community is a very political and unique choice.  Interviewing them gave me a chance to ask questions about these choices and get to understand their lives further.  I don't yet know when or how I'll share the information from these interviews, but I know they're going to be an integral part of the work.  Every time I visit, I make one or two new interviews, and am looking forward to continuing to capture the oral history of the farm as well as making pictures of the ever-changing people, animals, and landscape.

Here are a few snapshots from the visit:

Violet playing in the leaves 

Lovebug the Ram 

The sun coming through the beautiful morning clouds 
(don't worry- I made a few pictures of this gorgeous light with my 4 x 5, too)

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing Dawoud Bey speak at MassArt, which was one of the most moving and inspiring lectures I've ever been to.  I admire his work and approach to art making so much and feel very grateful that this wonderful photographer came to Boston.  I feel absolutely high with inspiration and re-invigorated and excited by having heard him speak and seeing his compelling, intimate, important photographs.  You can see more of his work here.

Last week, I joined photographer Robert Siegelman at the Simmons College Graduate School of Social work, where we both had work on display in honor of National Coming Out Day, to give an artists talk.  I was showing eight photographs from The (Trans)Gender Series, one of my earliest projects.  Given my comfort level with the subject, I tend to forget that it can still be viewed as edgy or radical, even in Boston.  Robert's work deals with issues of gay male identity (and even, gasp, shows a penis or two) and apparently our work caused quite a stir during the month that it was on display.  I think we were both quite surprised to show up for the artists talk and hear about all of the buzz the show had caused.  In fact, the curators chose to put up a bulletin board for comments to provide an outlet for all of the comments they had been overhearing.  One person wrote, "I was shocked!  That's for sure," and another wrote, "Very graphic!  Not for families!"  The latter comment caused someone else to respond in defense of how the show could actually be very good for families and to question what constitutes a family in the first place.  One comment that I especially liked read, "These pictures are frank, bold, strong, and could be offensive.  But sometimes in life we need a mild form of offending to challenge our thought process and help mold our views!  In a nutshell, I LOVE THEM!!!"

I am very interested at the use of the words "offensive" and "shocking."  I would argue that both Robert's work and my own is very loving, present, and beautiful.  While I recognize that queer identities can be shocking to people who aren't familiar with them, I don't feel that our work aims to be shocking in its presentation or approach to the subject matter.  I certainly don't aim for shock value, but rather for openness and accessibility.  I was thrilled to see this kind of dialogue beginning and hope that it continues after the show comes down.

I'll post a few photos of the work, as well as a photo of the comment board, below.  I was honored to be part of that show and pleasantly surprised that queer work can still cause a ruffle, even among a bunch of Simmons social work grad students.

The comment board 

Rob's work

Rob's work

Rob's work

Rob's work 

 My work

Installation view of my work 

 Melsen, 2007

And lastly, I'm looking forward to having three photos from the same series on display at The Meeting Point in Jamaica Plain as part of the show Cut, Healed, Mine: Processing Top Surgery.  There will be an opening this Saturday, November 6 at 7 p.m., and the show will be on display through the end of 2010.  If you  have a chance, stop by and see it!  The following 3 photos will be on display:

 Self-portrait with mom, 2005

Corinne and Travis, 2006

Calvin, 2008

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dawoud Bey Lecture TODAY at MassArt

I am very much looking forward to this lecture today!  I admire Dawoud Bey a great deal and his work is a huge inspiration to me.

Dawoud Bey Lecture
MassArt Tower Auditorium
Tuesday, November 1
2 p.m.