Closeness, desire and survival within Jess T. Dugan’s celebration of queer love

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In the artist’s latest photobook, Look at me personally like you love me, being seen will be replaced with the urgency of living

I’ve always thought about Jess T. Dugan’s exercise as a form of wayfinding. They may be invested in the urgent function of queer visibility, speaking through themes of identification, sexuality and desire with profound intimacy.   Dugan’s images are usually cathartic for both audience and artist. Image right after image, they assert identity. Dugan is direct within their mission to confront the particular viewer, reclaim space and luxuriate in the act of being noticed. In this deeply personal take action, the American artist animates the possibility of a creative life like a space to lens plus write yourself in.

In their latest book, ​​ Look at me personally like you love me , published simply by Mack, Dugan transcends to a new plain. Being observed is replaced with the urgency of living. We meet their subjects fully put, grounded in a profound knowledge of self, captivated by the ways our identities are validated through relationships.   “The book left a very specific moment, ” Dugan shares. “The outbreak had a huge influence on my work, practically upon my photographs, but more so psychologically. I was reflecting on my own identity, how I’m aging, thinking about being a parent and exactly how it has affected how I think about my own personhood. ”

“Everyone in this book is certainly someone I felt a magnetic pull towards. There is a desire to be close, to look, to find out how that person looks at me, and see how we intersect. It’s a complicated play of desire, and photography is the anchor through this”

Dugan’s photographs are modes of radical care. The collaborations are so nuanced and complex, they hold history while enabling new futures in order to unfold. Gentle gestures manifest as a visual poem – structured not in chapters, but verses. The book is reflective and delicate; it is more akin to relaxation.  

Inside, Dugan holds space to constellate the complexity of a life lived through the people and associations that shape who they are. Getting demands on both thinking and feeling, the photographs talk to those precious moments associated with embracing selfhood with higher acuity. Despite its usually precarious circumstances, the reserve is an active affirmation associated with queer consciousness.

Most importantly, Look at me like you love myself is a book that tries to describe desire and contain it. Honouring its multifaceted manifestations, Dugan marvels at the strength of relationships.  

“The work speaks to me plus my desires and how they intersect with other people’s details and desires, ” they share. “Everyone in this book is someone I sensed a magnetic pull towards. There is a desire to be close, to look, to see how that person discusses me, and see how we intersect. It’s a complicated play of desire, and photography is certainly my anchor through this particular. ”

In her 2019 book Whose Story Is? , the particular writer and activist Rebecca Solnit offered the idea that “transformations are perhaps most important whenever they are most subtle. ” This truth reverberates through every page of Dugan’s book. Together they illuminate how revelations are delivered through a million small meets and go on to recalibrate who we are.  

“It’s not easy, being you and me. ” Dugan writes in the book. “The world pushes against us, asks us to roughen the parts that are tender, requires us to codeswitch and self protect. We all spend a lifetime learning that will what we know to be true is not what others hope for. But the pull is too great, the cost of turning away too high, and so we forge ahead shoulder the loss, embrace the growth. ”

Jewel Fletcher

Creative movie director, writer, podcaster and photograph director, Gem Fletcher functions across visual-cultural fields, focusing on emerging talent in contemporary photography and art. She is the photo director of Riposte Magazine, and offers a photography podcast, The Messy Truth.

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