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Carroll and Sons Gallery


Behold: Jess Dugan

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Jess Dugan has often used portraiture as a way of exploring gender and sexuality. Her latest series, “Every Breath We Drew,” to be published as a monograph this fall by Daylight, is a body of work in which Dugan not only questions the definition of masculinity but also the idea of identity. Is our self defined from within or is it part of a larger question about our connection – and desire to connect - to others?  “I was trying to make something more universal than just showing a group of people who share a similar identity,” she said. “I wanted people to reflect on that process for themselves, and how we connect with people.”

Read the full Behold interview here.


Left:  Betsy, 2013 . Right:  Jet, 2013 .

Left: Betsy, 2013. Right: Jet, 2013.

When you first began imagining a career in photography, what did that look like? Was gallery representation or a book publication part of that vision? 

I was lucky to get gallery representation at the very beginning of my career, so in many ways, I grew up as an artist within the gallery system.  I was also lucky to be working with a gallery director who acted as a mentor to me (more about her in question 3) and who was very sensitive to my work, always privileging the integrity of the work over its marketability.

To be quite honest, I didn’t know what a career in photography would look like.  My first year out of undergrad was a rough transition, as I had lofty ideas about grants and residencies and things like that.  My undergrad faculty were all Guggenheim-winning artists, so that was the model I saw most directly.  For many years, my career involved me working a 9 to 5 job and making just enough extra money to spend every weekend in the darkroom, which I built in my studio apartment.  After several years of that, I moved from Boston to Chicago to go to grad school (lured largely by the prospect of working with Dawoud Bey, who became a very significant mentor to me).  At that point, I was more aware of what I wanted out of my career, and it certainly involved galleries and books.

I have quite a photobook addiction, and I have always loved the book form as a way to experience photographs.  My earliest, most powerful moments with photography came from seeing myself (or people like myself) reflected in photography books at a time when I didn’t see these representations anywhere else around me.  I had many profound moments sitting in the basement of the Harvard Book Store flipping through used photography books and discovering influential photographers I would come to know and love.  

I have made many artist books and self-published books over the past 6 or 7 years, but I’m currently working on my first monograph and am really excited about that.  I’m already thinking in terms of books for my next two projects, which are well underway.  


You're quite a prolific photographer. Talk about the importance of producing work both for yourself and for your career.

Thank you.  You know, it’s interesting that you say that I am prolific, because in some ways I don’t know what that means.  Since I discovered photography, I have been addicted, and I have somewhat obsessively been making work since then.  

Making work is the way I feel connected to the world, and also the way I make sense of my own life, my own relationship, etc.  So, I consistently and intentionally make pictures.  What’s interesting is that I don’t really make a lot of snapshots anymore- I’m not the kind of photographer who always carries a camera.  For me, making work and truly experiencing a moment are almost always mutually exclusive activities. 

In terms of my career, it certainly helps that I make a lot of work, as galleries like showing new images.  In some ways, though, it becomes its own kind of challenge to make sense of a photographic process that comes so naturally from my life.  Though I present my work in very distinct “projects,” their creation often happens simultaneously, or one project flows into another, or themes emerge from photographs I’ve been making over a period of years. 


What was your first big break? Describe what that meant to you and how/if your definition of "break" has changed as you continue your career.

My definition of a break has most definitely changed throughout my career.  My first big break would have to be when I met Arlette Kayafas, owner of Gallery Kayafas in Boston.  I had just graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, an amazing school that I was quite lucky to attend, especially since I didn’t fully realize when I applied at the age of 16 how amazing their photography program was and how it would form the foundation of my career.  I was working at the Bernard Toale Gallery in Boston’s South End with Joseph Carroll, who now runs Carroll and Sons, and through my experience in the gallery I got to know Arlette, whose gallery was just down the block.  We formed a relationship, I showed her my work, and I had my first solo show one year later in the fall of 2008.  My relationship with her has been career-changing; she mentored me in the business of galleries, supported my work both emotionally and financially from the very beginning, and provided a consistent, meaningful place for me to get feedback and gain perspective on my work. 

That summer, I also took a part time job at the Harvard Art Museum which led to a full time job there, which led to me to spend the last eight years working in the museum field, which has also been hugely informative to my career as an artist. 

Over the years, there have been many moments I would describe as a big break, and how I define that has changed with time.  My first gallery, certainly.  My first museum acquisition.  My first solo show.  My first real collector. 

At this very moment, I am excited about being represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery, working on my first monograph with Daylight Books (due out Sept. 2015), and working on my first solo museum exhibition with curator Amy Galpin at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Florida.  


Left:   Ryan and Josh, 2013.   Right:   Laurel, 2014.

Left: Ryan and Josh, 2013. Right: Laurel, 2014.



Behold: Rania Matar

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.

Rania Matar began her career as an architect but after taking photography classes to better capture her four children, Matar soon changed professions. Her work is informed by both her dual nationalities (she is both Lebanese and American) and her experiences raising her children, specifically her two daughters. What she is experiencing inside is often reflected by the images she creates of other people. Her current, ongoing, work explores the complex mother and daughter relationships she titles “Unspoken Coversations.”

We asked her about her first break in the photo business and her work with galleries. Read the full Behold feature here.


Lauren and Kyra, Concord, Massachusetts, 2015. by  Rania Matar

Lauren and Kyra, Concord, Massachusetts, 2015. by Rania Matar


Tell me about your first "break" in the photo business and how that helped to push your career.

I might call it a "break" in the photo world rather than business, and I believe I had multiple "mini-breaks" sequentially, one leading to the other, rather than one big break. I was originally trained and was working as an architect. I started photography to take better photos of my kids. After September 11, I decided to start photographing in Lebanon, where I am from originally, as I wanted to tell a different story from what we were hearing on the news. My photo instructor at the time, Nick Johnson, was very supportive of this early work and took it upon himself to put it in front of a gallery owner who loved the work and connected me with Magnum photographer Costa Manos, who became a mentor and a teacher after that. This was important to me as it finalized and confirmed my shift from architecture to photography.

The second break came when I presented my work for the first time at a portfolio review with Leslie Brown, then curator of the Photographic Resource Center in Boston. She published the work on the PRC blog - my first (online) publication - and urged me to start submitting the work to competitions and presenting it at portfolio reviews. I then submitted some work to the New England Biennial and won the first and purchase prize. The jurors were Karen Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Arlette Kayafas from Gallery Kayafas in Boston. I believe this was a big turning point for me, and I will always be thankful to both Arlette and Karen for that. I also believe this led me to become a nominee and then a finalist for the Foster Prize at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston with an exhibition.  

The third break happened one year at the Meeting Place at Fotofest, when I presented for the first time A Girl and Her Room. The work was very well received, and I walked out that year with two new gallery representations, a couple of sales and some exhibition offers. 

I believe breaks happen because of people who believe in your work and are willing to support it. I could not have achieved any of what I have achieved if it weren't for all the baby steps and the people who supported me along every one of those steps. I am thankful to them all for that. 


Do you currently work with a gallery? If so, talk a bit about how that relationship began and what is expected of you and how that influences your work. 

I work with a few galleries, and this is a tough question as I find every relationship is different, and all started differently. Because I live in Boston, I might say that Carroll and Sons gallery in Boston is the gallery I work closest with on a regular basis, but I have very good relationships with all my galleries. I started working with Joseph Carroll at the recommendation of many people in the Boston community who thought we would be a good match. The Boston photo community is small and things seems to have happened very naturally. I am learning that often finding the right gallery happens because of people's recommendations and introduction, often artists from the gallery. I think it is hard and intimidating for most artists to approach galleries, and having people help make introductions is very helpful, but it is the first step then you slowly have to learn to know each other and figure out if the relationship will work and see if the work is a good fit. It is also always helpful to speak with other artists represented by the gallery and ask about their experiences. 

I started recently working with Galerie Eulenspiegel in Basel, Switzerland and this relationship also started because of an artist of the gallery who recommended my work to the gallery owner, but also highly recommended the gallery to me. I had my first exhibition there this past January.  

But then things can happen a little differently, and I have recently connected with Richard Levy Gallery who will be presenting some of my new work for the first time at Art on Paper in NYC this week. Richard and I connected, strangely enough, through Facebook as I had been posting some work in progress that I had made in Lebanon this past year about the Syrian refugees in Beirut. We then met coincidentally in person during Art Basel at Miami Project where the gallery had a booth and Richard asked to know more about this body of work, and here we are. Sometimes it is just serendipity. 

Having a gallery who understands and champions your work, who can help you edit, present your work the best way it can, and put it out into the world is key. It is also a treat to have someone an artist trusts deal with that, so that he/she can focus on making work. Galleries can also give you a presence in a place where you would not necessarily have one otherwise. Galerie Janine Rubeiz in Beirut is very important to me for instance. I live in Boston now, but Beirut is also home for me and it is means a lot to me to have someone giving me a presence in a place that personally matters very much to me but where I am not present physically most of the time. 


Do you categorize your work as "fine art"? Why or why not? Do you think categorizing photography is important?  

I don't personally like the categorizing of photography. I find it sometimes limiting. I do think my work is fine art - I treat it and present it as such - but it is also portraiture; it is about people, about girls and women, about identity and daily life. Sometimes my work has also been referred to as "Documentary" or "Personal Documentary". I stopped trying to put a label on it. I believe it could be all of the above and I want to keep following my own instincts as I am working without having to box myself and my work into one category or another.