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Chester County Press

A gift to Kennett Square and to herself

03/03/2015 12:09PM ● By Richard 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.

Now, with the help of a local gallery, Deng・s journey is about to come full circle.

"People of Kennett Square," an exhibition of 20 portrait photographs, will open on March 6 at the Mala Galleria on State Street in Kennett Square, with an opening night reception and viewing from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibit runs through 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・ 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."

Mala Galleria is at 206 E. State St., Kennett Square. Visit

To learn more about Jie Deng, visit

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].