Photographic Center Northwest presents "To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults"

January 12, 2021 | Press Release
Photographic Center Northwest presents "To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults"

Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre highlight transgender older adults in new book and exhibition

January 14-April 15

"In the '60s they called me a sissy. In the '70s they called me a faggot. In the '80s I was a queen. In the '90s I was transgender. In the 2000s I was a woman, and now I'm just Grace." - Grace, 56, Boston MA

Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) is pleased to present "To Survive on This Shore", a new photographic exhibition on view January 14 - April 15. This interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between Jess T. Dugan, photographer, and Vanessa Fabbre, social worker and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, whose research focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ issues and aging.

For more than five years, Dugan and Fabbre traveled throughout the United States seeking subjects whose experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class and geographic location. They traveled from coast to coast, to big cities and small towns, documenting the life stories of this important but largely underrepresented group of older adults. The featured individuals have a wide variety of life narratives spanning the last 90 years, offering an important historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States.

The exhibition will include 22 photographs, each paired with texts illuminating the life narratives of those photographed. A hardcover book (Kehrer Verlag, August 28, 2018) contains 65 portraits and texts as well as an interview with Dugan and Fabbre conducted by Karen Irvine, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago IL.

While Dugan's earlier work focused on issues of identity, gender and sexuality - and often on LGBTQ communities specifically - this is their first body of work that focuses on older adults, a result of their collaboration with Fabbre. Dugan's portraits are open, emotive and nuanced, utilizing direct eye contact to facilitate a meaningful exchange between subject and viewer. For the accompanying texts, Fabbre provides selections of full-length interviews to enhance the viewer's connection to each subject's story. The resulting book and exhibition provide a nuanced view into the struggles and joys of growing older as a transgender person and offer a poignant reflection on what it means to live authentically despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Jess T. Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of identity through photographic portraiture. Dugan's work has been widely exhibited and is in the permanent collections of over 35 museums throughout the United States. Dugan's monographs include To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults (Kehrer Verlag, 2018) and Every Breath We Drew (Daylight Books, 2015). They are the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, an ICP Infinity Award, and were selected by the Obama White House as an LGBT Artist Champion of Change. They are represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago IL.

Vanessa Fabbre, Ph.D., LCSW, is an Assistant Professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is also Affiliate Faculty in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a Faculty Scholar at the Institute for Public Health. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Her research explores the conditions under which gender and sexual minorities age well and what this means in the context of social forces such as heteronormativity, heterosexism and transphobia. She is also interested in critical perspectives on social work practice and interpretive methodology in the social sciences. She is actively involved in the Gerontological Society of America, the American Society on Aging and the Society for Social Work and Research. Her work has been published in The Gerontologist, the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Social Work, the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, the Journal of Urban Health and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Barrett Barrera Projects is a cross-disciplinary group of originators who redefine art experiences and push boundaries to explore the continuously expanding spectrum of art forms. We see art where others see separate disciplines. At Barrett Barrera Projects we focus on the intersections, because that's where new ideas and experiences emerge. Our team produces, manages, consults and advises on touring exhibitions, in addition to managing our own exhibition and gallery spaces. For more information, visit

Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) teaches people how to see. Through our 53-credit Certificate Program, classes and workshops; free exhibitions and companion public programs; and publicly accessible facilities we teach the history and future of the photographic medium.

The PCNW gallery is open by appointment for groups of ten or less and masks must be worn at all times when in the gallery. Please call (206) 720-7222 during our current business hours (Sun-Mon, 12-6pm; Tues-Thurs 12:30-9pm; CLOSED Fri-Sat) or email to make an appointment.

For more information, visit