In the eye of Kennett Square
By Richard Gaw
Kennett Square photographer Jie Deng.
By Richard L. Gaw
When Jie Deng moved to Kennett Square with her husband and newborn daughter in 2009, there was little here familiar to the world she had left behind in Brooklyn.
She had no driver's license. She knew practically no one. While her husband was off at work, she spent her days caring for her daughter, walking her around in a baby carriage in their neighborhood. Connection to the world was, day after day, becoming more of an illusion than a potential reality.
In 2013, armed with a camera and just a few online photography courses, she began taking photographs of the people and the town she longed to get to know.
She met artists and shop owners along State Street, and began to understand that in Kennett Square, each person is one small piece of a fabric that gives it character and keeps its engine running. Over time, frame by frame, image by image, Deng began to realize that these photographs were more than just a point-and-click hobby. These were the steps that needed to be taken to endear her to Kennett Square.
Earlier this spring, with the help of a local gallery, Deng' s journey with her camera came full circle. Her exhibit of 20 profiles of local people, entitled, "People of Kennett Square," opened on March 6 at the Mala Galleria on State Street in Kennett Square, with an opening night reception and viewing that drew raves from the many people who attended. The raves continued for the entire time the exhibit was there -- the entire month of March.
"I saw an article about a photographer's book that included photographs taken of people in New York City over a certain time period," Deng said during a recent interview. "I liked the concept and thought, 'I should do something like that, here.' I thought I would start with someone I know, not with random photos, but with some preparation for the photo shoots."
Deng's first subject was Bridget Marowski, who owns Other People's Trash, a vintage clothing boutique. "I got to know her and really admired her vintage clothing, so I thought that I would begin the project working with her," Deng said.
Deng's photo shoot with Marowski led to others, including one next to the Mala Galleria, in the studio of painter Robert C. Jackson. "Stella [Zvezdana Stojanovic Scott, the owner of the Mala Galleria] introduced me to Robert, so I contacted him and that led me to more people," Deng said. "This is a small town. Everybody knows everybody. I didn't know this would become an exhibit. I just started out as a personal project."
Deng credits the photographer Annie Lebovitz as one of her inspirations for the direction her project took, given Lebovitz's stylized shoots that place her subjects in surroundings that have a direct or indirect connection to them.
"I want to find the real personality in my portraits," Deng said. "Through these photographs, I want people to get to know my subjects. I want these photos to show who they are, in places that accent their style. Everybody is different, and with every picture, I think about how I want to convey that separate, individual emotion."
To learn more about Jie Deng, visit www.intheyephotography.com.
Faces of Kennett Square [9 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
“Before Scout & Annie, I was an attorney. I loved it, but I meet much friendlier people now.” -- Tara Dugan, Scout and Anne Vintage Home Goods
“I’m curious about being 18, really. I wonder if I’ll feel more mature or if I’ll act the same, despite knowing I’m legally an adult. As for now, I’m enjoying this limbo between the teenage years and legality." -- Annebelle Schmitt, High School senior
“My first piece I sold, on the first day I opened the gallery. It was an antique, by Julien Celos (1884-1953), a Belgian visual artist. It was a good luck charm!” -- Zvezdana Scott, Mala Galleria
“I can not give one memorable moment in my career. There are too many! Performing for Britney Spears was high on the memorable moment list. Also working for Cirque. ” -- Veronika Goodnight aka kit Hula Hoop Dancer and Fire Performer
“I definitely want to travel more! Traveling always helps me to shift my inspiration. I would also love to have an online shop where I sell custom products, such as stamps, wood burnings, and cards.” -- Meredith Langer Calligrapher
"My dream is open a gallery here, where people can come see artworks and meet artists, and maybe Jie's work will be there." -- Edmin Torres Cruz, graphic designer