“Master Portrait Artist” Jess T. Dugan turns the lens on under-represented subjects | Arts and theater


The artist describes the process as “slow”, using no artificial lighting and gradually adjusting the poses of the models. Dugan tells subjects to wear whatever they feel comfortable in, although the artist prefers more neutral clothes without logos.

“Oskar at Sunset” (2019) by Jess T. Dugan

Photo by Jess T. Dugan

A guardian, identified as Oskar, arrives in makeup and jewelry. “He’s really into fashion,” says Dugan. “I see what he’s presenting himself in and I respond to it.”

Other photographs shown at SLAM are self-portraits, including a moody monochrome at the Angad Arts Hotel, where Dugan wears a navy blue top and stands against a rich blue wall. And a few are indoor still lifes. In a photograph of a bed and a table, morning light shines through a window as in a painting by Vermeer.

“It puts the history of art on a photograph,” says Lutz.

Dugan grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and moved at age 13 with their mother to Boston, where they dated gay (a “wonderful place to be a teenager and come of age”).

Now Dugan lives with their partner and 3-year-old daughter near Tower Grove Park, which they used to exercise, play and work during the pandemic. “I spent many hours a day there for a long time. “

Vanessa Fabbre, an associate professor at the Brown School of Social Work at the University of Washington, met Dugan while dancing in a country line in Chicago, where the photographer was earning an MFA at Columbia College.


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