A new photo book has just been released and it examines the power of identity, desire, and connection through the art of portraiture in 2015.
Every Breath We Drew is a striking collection of images from photographer Jess Dugan, who sought out subjects that exhibit, in her words, a form of "gentle masculinity." Through this work, Dugan complicates traditional notions of masculinity by photographing individuals in intimate spaces as meaningful exchanges took place.
In many ways the project is personal for Dugan, who calls it "one big self portrait" and who reveals that she came to define what masculinity means for herself apart from societal expectations.
"I am interested in a version of masculinity that is more expansive, and more vulnerable, than the kind often represented in mainstream culture," Dugan told The Huffington Post.
Check out some images from Every Breath We Drew , as well as an interview with Dugan, below.
The Huffington Post: Why did you decide to embark on this project?
I began making these photographs in 2011 after relocating from Boston to Chicago. My previous work had focused on issues of gender and sexuality, specifically within the female-to-male transgender community, and I was thinking a lot about the idea of masculinity on both a personal and cultural level. The more time I spent thinking about it, the more elusive and malleable it seemed. I also found myself alone in a new city, figuring out where I fit in and with whom I felt connected. Using the investigation of masculinity as a starting point, my photographs became about the intersection of a personal identity and a need for intimacy and connection with others.
What is the overarching narrative surrounding masculinity that you're exploring through these photos?
The people I was drawn to photograph embody a gentle kind of a masculinity, whether they are male or female, gay or straight. I am interested in a version of masculinity that is more expansive, and more vulnerable, than the kind often represented in mainstream culture.
The Huffington Post: Is this project personal? In what way?
Absolutely. In many ways, I think of this work as one big self portrait. As someone who has had to consciously define my own version of masculinity against what society has expected of me, I was drawn to people who embodied a similar authenticity and comfort within themselves. I have always been especially drawn to the combination of strength and vulnerability, which is present in so many of the images. The people I chose to photograph often had qualities that I saw reflected in myself or that I desired to emulate. The photographs are not objective documents of individual people, but rather subjective recordings of a moment that took place between them and myself.
What do you want viewers to take away from this project?
First and foremost, I want viewers to feel connected to the people in the photographs. I often place the viewer in a position of intimacy with the subject -- in their bedroom or sitting across the kitchen table -- and I hope that this intimacy allows for a meaningful exchange to take place. I also want viewers to question their own assumptions about gender and sexuality, calling into question things they may have previously assumed to be objective or clearly defined. The photographs are ultimately about the need we all have to be seen, embraced and desired as our true selves.
Head here to see more from Dugan and Every Breath We Drew.