Mengwen Cao

6x6 Asia Talent: Mengwen Cao, China

“Mengwen Cao is a photographer passionate about the intersection of race, gender, and cultural identity. A former user experience designer, Cao isn’t afraid to experiment and weave their photographic projects with moving images, audio recordings, video, and data visualizations. Their work shows their empathetic viewpoint and an interest in pushing journalism in new directions.” - Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, South Korea, photographer and assistant photo editor, TIME, and 6x6 nominator.

Mengwen Cao is a photographer, multimedia artist, and cultural organizer, born and raised in China, and currently based in New York, United States. Cao is currently the Visuals editor at ChinaFile and project manager for the Photography and Social Justice Fellowship, Magnum Foundation. As a queer immigrant, they use care and tenderness to explore the spaces between race, gender, and cultural identity. As a board member of Authority Collective and a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, Cao is championing diverse narratives and perspectives in the media industry.

Liminal Space

Liminal Space is a project exploring the mundane beauty of the lives of queer trans people of color (QTPOC). Joy and resilience exist in everyday life and the community happily lives out of the spotlight. The photographer aims to highlight intimacy and challenge the “sensational media representation” of QTPOC lives.
Portrait of Luke Luokun Cheng in Catskill, New York, in July 2017. Luke is a Chinese American queer artist and digital designer working in diverse media including installation, imagery, and performance.
Portrait of Amarie Baker in her bedroom in Brooklyn, New York, in November 2018. Amarie is a queer artist and social media strategist.
Portrait of Sueann Leung in Brooklyn, New York, in May 2019. Sueann is a non-binary costume designer and stylist interested in using design to explore identity and expression. 
Portrait of Jazmin Jones and Yeelen Cohen in Brooklyn, New York, in July 2018. Jazmin is a visual storyteller and cultural organizer. Yeelen is a nonbinary filmmaker. They have been together for eight years and are currently exploring polyamorous relationships.

Here We Are

Due to family pressure and social stigma, only around five percent of LGBTQ people in China are completely open about their identity. Here We Are aims to share raw and intimate moments between family members and add to nuanced stories about the Chinese queer community.

“When I was 25, my parents thought I had never been in love. We didn't talk about relationships because I had a secret: I am queer. I created a video letter coming out to them and shared it with them as we spoke on Facetime.” - Mengwen Cao

Discover work by the 6x6 Asia talents, and find out about 6x6’s nomination and selection process.