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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Jess Dugan

SPE Member since 2005
Member Chapter: Midwest

Every breath we drew

Every breath we drew (2011- )

Individual identity and sexuality are constructs far more complicated and fluid than we typically give them credit for. They are multifaceted, constantly changing and evolving in relation to our private experiences and relationships with others. Though these identities are internal and psychological, they are read and understood by others through our actions and bodies. Every breath we drew explores the power of identity, desire, and connection through intimate portraits of myself and others.

As someone who has chosen to physically modify my body in order to feel more alive and at home in my skin, I understand how imperative it is to inhabit my body physically in a way that feels representative of my interior identity. These photographs explore my own complicated relationship with masculinity, sexuality, and identity and how these aspects relate to those I seek connection with. Rejecting traditional expectations of gender and sexuality, I have renamed my body and reclaimed my desire.

By asking others to be vulnerable and intimate with me through the act of being photographed, I am laying claim to my own desires and defining what I find beautiful and powerful while asking larger questions about how identity is formed, desire is expressed, and intimate connection is sought.


Dallas laying on the bed



Self-portrait (bed)




Erica and Krista

Gregg laying in the grass





Self-portrait (bath)

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