St. Louis photographer to accept Champion of Change award Monday at the White House | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis photographer to accept Champion of Change award Monday at the White House

Nov 23, 2015

Local artist Jess Dugan is joining the ranks of game-changers in fields ranging from education to disaster preparedness.

The St. Louis photographer will accept a Champion of Change Award at the White House Monday afternoon. The Obama administration launched the Champion of Change program in 2011 to pay tribute to people who are making a difference in their communities.

This latest round of nine honorees features artists focused on LGBT advocacy. Photographer Jess Dugan has been documenting transgender individuals for 10 years.

“I think we’re absolutely in a moment where people are ready for this kind of representation about trans communities in a way they haven’t been ready before,” Dugan said.

Dugan’s work has been exhibited from Boston to San Diego and in Poland. She recently published a hardcover book exploring identity and connection called “Every Breath We Drew.” Her self-portrait from that book will hang in the National Portrait Gallery in The Smithsonian from March 2016 through January 2017.

Jess Dugan and her partner Vanessa Fabbre in front of several portraits for their book "To Survive on This Shore" featuring transgender people over 50.
Credit Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

Dugan and her partner Vanessa Fabbre are working on another book featuring transgender men and women over the age of 50 around the country. So far, there are 42 participants. Last January, St. Louis Public Radio went along on a photo shoot for one local subject of the book, called “To Survive on This Shore.”

Dugan plans to talk about “To Survive on This Shore” at the White House ceremony. You can watch it live today, Monday, Nov. 23, beginning at noon Central Time. 

Dugan's not sure if she'll get to meet President Obama but she is looking forward to what the other honorees have to  say. She said the entire group of artists is focused on projects that go way beyond Caitlyn Jenner and “People” magazine.

“Making work about real people, working with trans youth, working around health issues," Dugan said. "And so I think that is a really important counterpoint to some of the more celebrity representation we’ve seen this year.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL