Meet Jessica Dang- Photographer & Curator

Dayna Mignone
April 30, 2021
Hi there! So what's your name?

Jessica Dang

Where do you call home?


What do you do?

Photographer & Curator of emerging art exhibitions

Tell us your story

Growing up Vietnamese, I was always so torn between art and science. Like most stories of an Asian household, there was an expectation to lean more towards the science field due to its more "money- stable" nature. With these expectations in mind, I struggled to balance my passion for art while meeting the expectations of my family to become anything they deemed "worthwhile"; in this case, it would be something medical-related. I ended up pursuing a degree in Psychology and despite my interest in the human mind, I always felt like something was missing in my life. This sense of "missingness" eventually became overpowering and I found myself with the desperate need to escape Melbourne. I eventually decided to take on a semester abroad and decided to live in Amsterdam for 10 months. I know it's cliche to say, but those 10 months changed my life because suddenly there was art and passion everywhere. I was given the freedom to explore photography which I knew I loved growing up and met so many like-minded - many of which were women who were juggling conflicting fields such as science and art and managed to create the space for both in their lives. These women encouraged me to foster my artistic passions and challenged me constantly with my limits. With them, I built a portfolio for my work, I gained the confidence for my art, I held my first photography exhibition with another artist friend and by the end of the 10 months, I knew I had to do whatever it took, to bring home this energy. As a result, I returned to Melbourne and knew I couldn't leave my art aside any longer. This is where the idea of hosting an emerging art exhibition came in. Before Amsterdam, I wasn't exposed to a wide circle of creatives and even if I was, that circle of creatives lacked diversity. I rarely saw anyone that I felt I could relate to. Hence I rarely felt inspired and confident enough to pursue my art as heavily as I did with an interest in psychology. I had the general assumption that in an Asian household, art wasn't something that was fostered and used that to explain the lack of diversity but I knew that needed to change. I wanted to create a space for creatives that were more diverse and inclusive. As a result, in 2019, I hosted my first emerging art exhibition in light of International Women Day. This event was created to celebrate the amazing women in my life that pushed me to pursue my art - a way of thanking those in Amsterdam - and to allow space for other guests and artists to do the same and celebrate the amazing things women in their lives have done for them or just to celebrate how far women have come as a collective in general. In these events, I can work with 14-15 female artists to showcase their work regardless of their "skill-level" and help them feel empowered and confident while inspiring guests. Additionally, these events are also a fundraiser for specific charities that assist women beyond the event so overall we can celebrate and empower women on both an individual and community level. This event was again curated in 2020 and now, endeavors to become an annual thing indefinitely. I aspire to keep curating these events to continue to empower women so we can build a supportive community of creatives together. In the end, I hope those who like my younger self, who struggled to find someone to inspire and empower them to follow their dreams, can look at these events and find someone they can relate to, and maybe then it can empower them to chase the dreams they thought they couldn't chase.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

The world is built upon a patriarchal system. You won't understand this till you get a bit older but unfortunately, the current system does everything to try to belittle you. It will make you blame for your emotions, your trauma, and your experiences. It will turn you against other women until at a certain age you realise what it is doing. Well hear this, you are strong, you are powerful, you have everything in you to achieve your goals, chase the dreams you dream even though the system tells you you are not worthy, and if there is one thing you want to trust, trust that other women will be the only ones that will understand you, support you and uplift you. So fight with them.

What does "living freely" mean to you?

Living freely means being able to listen to music at night when you're walking home. Lively freely is feeling safe in your city. Living freely means being able to pick your outfit on how you feel and not on how society will perceive it. Living freely means being able to have a conversation with a male stranger without doubting their intention. Living freely means being able to defy gender roles without societal judgment; to be able to be yourself and not have to justify it to anyone. Living freely means living in a society where women are equal to men.

Where can we follow your work and support you?

Instagram: @jxdngphotography

Facebook: @jxdngphotography