Jade Thiraswas (b.1993) is a Thai-American visual storyteller. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised between there and Southeast Asia. Her work celebrates the complexities of cultural identity, community, and representation while working against a history of colonialism, otherness, and patriarchy in the documentary photographic tradition. She often works collaboratively with her subjects, challenging notions of artistic authority and subjectivity. Her ongoing project Young Cash Karen follows a tight-knit community of young refugees from Myanmar who have resettled in Upstate New York.
Jade attended New Orleans Center for Creative Arts in high school, going on to earn her BFA in photography and art history at Memphis College of Art in 2015, and her MFA in photography & related media at Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018. Her work has been exhibited in numerous spaces nationally and internationally. She has been selected to participate in the New York Times Portfolio Review, the Women Photograph Workshop at Photoville, Angkor Photo Festival Workshops, Chico Hot Springs Portfolio Review, and was an artist in residence at The Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York.
My childhood was filled with cultural and geographical shifts, and experiences of displacement and adaptation. The earliest years of my life were spent living in an isolated settlement in the deep jungles of Papua, Indonesia near a copper and gold mine where my father, a Thai immigrant to the United States, worked. Due to these circumstances, I had little opportunity to interact with other children which taught me how to befriend and appreciate human beings of all kinds. My first memories are from the walks my Indonesian nanny, Samini, would take me on every day around our small village and through the jungle where aboriginal tribes lived. Wrapped tightly around her back with a blanket, she’d carry me with her on little journeys in which I’d observe with curiosity from behind her shoulders.
I am grateful to have had these types of experiences as a child which taught me to see the world, and the people in it, without judgement or fear.