20 Portraits of Trans Elders Showcasing the Meaning of Survival

The exhibition and book release of “To Survive on This Shore” will debut at  projects+gallery, 4733 McPherson Avenue, in St. Louis, MO from today through October 10, 2018. Opening reception September 13, 5 – 8 p.m.


“To Survive on This Shore” by Jess T. Dugan provides a nuanced view into the struggles and joys of growing older as a transgender person and offers a poignant reflection on what it means to live authentically despite seemingly insurmountable odds. The exhibition will include twelve 30” x 40” prints, and ten 18” x 24” prints, each paired with text illuminating the stories of those photographed, opening in conjunction with the publication of her book by the same name.

For over five years, Dugan and Fabbre traveled throughout the United States ( see the article on this project from 2015), seeking subjects whose experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location. Intentionally going off the beaten path, they traveled from coast to coast, to big cities and small towns, documenting the life stories of this critical, but mostly underrepresented, group of older adults. The featured individuals have a wide variety of life narratives spanning the last ninety years, offering a valuable historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States. This interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between Jess T. Dugan, photographer, and Vanessa Fabbre, Ph.D., LCSW, a social worker and Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, whose research focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ issues and aging.

Dugan’s portraits are open, emotive, human and, most importantly, optimistic. Her subjects stare through the lens, engaging directly with the photographer and viewers. They give a little bit of themselves, sharing a glimpse of their humanity. The accompanying interviews are illuminating, providing a level of depth that a photograph alone is unable to convey.