Remarkable Portraits Of Older Transgender and Gender Variant People

Laurie says:

I recently saw these very impressive portraits of older transgender and gender variant people in photographer Jesse Dugan and scholar Vanessa Fabbre’s project To Survive On This Shore.

As an artist who believes in the importance of the words of the people she photographs, I really appreciate their use of text. (Only for some of the pictures – click on pictures and check the bottom to see if there’s text.)

From a post by by Jorge Rivas on

There’s something really powerful about portraits, especially when the subject is staring right back at you.
And even more so when that subject is “rarely visualized,” to use the words of photographer Jess T. Dugan. Starting in the fall of 2013, Dugan traveled the country taking photos of a group of people she says deserve to be seen more often: transgender and gender variant people over the age of 50.
Dugan’s work—a collaboration with Vanessa Fabbre, a scholar and professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis—comes as older trans people are just barely beginning to break through into mainstream culture.


From To Survive On This Shore:

Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from both photography and social science domains, and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. To survive on this shore combines photographs of transgender and gender variant people over the age of fifty with interviews about their life experiences in regards to gender, identity, age, and sexuality and provides a nuanced view into the complexities of aging as a transgender person. By combining our experiences working as a photographer and social worker within the transgender community, we hope to create a project that is simultaneously highly personal and socially relevant.
Our project seeks to complicate the ways in which transgender older adults are portrayed and perceived in the arts, humanities and social sciences by combining formal portrait photographs with excerpts from biographical interviews. Within scholarship on aging, LGBTQ issues- especially transgender issues- have received little attention. Within the photographic realm, representations of the transgender community are lacking, and those that do exist tend to focus on the younger generation. Like any community, the transgender community is diverse in many ways, including across the spectrum of age.



We combine text with images in our project in order to more fully tell the stories of our subjects. We intentionally seek out subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location. Though everyone in our project identifies somewhere along the transgender spectrum, there is no single narrative that captures the varied paths that lead to gender discovery or transition. Thus, we have chosen to conduct biographical interviews in a conversational format that allows subjects to prioritize the topics of identity and aging that are most salient in their lives. We then make selections from those interviews that elaborate on these topics and pair this text with the image so that these may be experienced together. The interview selections serve to facilitate an emotional and empathic connection to the person portrayed in the image and to highlight the diverse ways in which transgender adults think about and experience aging.


When you go to the site and click on the images, many of them have text below them. Read the texts – together with the photos they have created an important story.