photographer, artist, educator
creating multimedia affirmations
for transformation 

    ︎︎︎ EDITORIAL
    ︎︎︎ PROJECTS

    ︎︎︎ IDareU2Feel RADIO, 2021~ongoing
    ︎︎︎ LIMINAL SPACE, 2017~ongoing
    ︎︎︎ I STAND BETWEEN, 2017
    ︎︎︎ HERE WE ARE, 2016    








photographer, artist, educator
creating multimedia affirmations
for transformation


I teach and facilate workshops in photography, multimedia and storytelling. 
I am happy to offer the following or brainstorm new ideas. 
Please email me if you are interested. <3 

2023, 2024 Mixed Media Playbook, 5-week class, International Center of Photography, New York
2022 API LGBTQ+ Multimedia Project, 10-week workshop in collaboration with API rainbow parents and PFLAG New York, Virtual 
2022 Mixed Media Playbook, 10-week class, International Center of Photography, New York
2021 Magnum Foundation, instructor and facilitator, Photography and Social Justice Fellowship, Virtual
2021 Virtual Presence, 2-weenkend workshop, International Center of Photography, New York  
2021 Multimedia Love Letter, 8-week workshop, StrudelMedia Live, Virtual 
2020 Tender Gaze, Making Collaborative Portraits, 3-hr workshop


 API LGBTQ+ Multimedia Project

in collaboration with API rainbow parents, PFLAG New York
guest instructor: Rochelle Kwan and Hannah Yoon 

Sundays, 1pm-3pm ET, April 17-June 30, 2022

API LGBTQ+ Multimedia Project is a series of ten multimedia and communication skills-building workshops that promotes intergenerational conversation and healing. Through teaching participants multimedia technical skills as well as communication and interview skills, workshop participants create multimedia portraits of API parents with LGBTQ+ children who have gone through challenging journeys of navigating their children’s coming out, moving from struggle to acceptance to unconditional love. 

Each participant was paired with a parent (not their own) to learn about each parent’s background and experiences as an LGBTQ+ affirming parent. Through a series of prompts and exercises, participants learned visual-thinking strategies to analyze image structure and composition, practiced the power of intentional gazing, and learned deep listening skills to make meaningful connections. Building on these skills, participants utilized a blend of image, text, sound, and storytelling to create multimedia portraits of API parents with LGBTQ+ children.

︎project link:

“I really enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories, not just parents but also the other participants. I've learnt to be more patient with myself and remind myself that I deserve unconditional love. I also found the instructional sessions on photography and interviewing very informative. I learned ways to be more intentional with my work, in photographing and in asking questions.”

“endless thanks <3 Meng you were a great teacher and facilitator.”
“I loved the community we built together.
It felt really special to be connected to so many cool API trans/queer folks.
I definitely learned how diverse the community is, across ethnicities, borders, and experiences.
I also loved learning how to record oral histories. I definitely want to use this skill in the future.”


 Mixed Media Playbook

2022, 2023, 2024

How do you mix different mediums to tell more nuanced and complete stories?

In this five biweekly class, we will explore storytelling through experimenting with mixing photographs, text, audio, moving images and web design. Through a series of prompts and exercises, students will learn visual-thinking strategies to analyze images, practice deep listening and interview skills, and use design thinking strategies to construct a space online to tell multimedia stories. We will use a website builder. No previous coding experience is required. Students are encouraged to come to class with a project idea.

“The entire information provided was very helpful! I learnt how to to build and structure a website and different ways to add content that is not only photography. you're an amazing instructor!”
- Alejandra G.

“The 4 : 8 :12 rule for video and just video making in general! Thinking about how videos are made vs. images is quite different so it was something new and fun.” 
- Kristina S

“I feel as though this course has inspired me to heal within myself in various ways while also creating a meaningful dimension of work that others can relate to and feel a safe space within. I really am excited to continue with multi-media projects and how the form of it influences future work. Continue being an amazing instructor!”
- Adriel M



June 5-6, 2021 | Sat & Sun | 10 am-5 pm EDT
May 22-23, 2021 | Sat & Sun | 10 am-5 pm EDT

Who are you online? How do you present yourself and your work on a website?

In this weekend workshop, we will learn to use design thinking strategies to construct a space online to tell your story.

Through a series of prompts and practices, we will walk through the iterative design process together. We will first define and ideate your web project, prototype and design the beginning stage of it and test it amongst your peers. We will use a website builder. No previous coding experience required.

“Loved learning about the design process, especially digging into the feel of what a website is. I loved the idea of thinking of it as a home, with rooms. That metaphor really resonated for me.”

“I learned that brainstorming/ researching / understanding myself and my goals are important, not just for website building but for my future career. The prompts were so deep and really made me think hard. I didn't expect to learn so much about myself and what to do next after ICP, so thank you Mengwen!! <3”
“I really appreciated the way you began the workshop with setting the tone. You made the daunting task (at least to me! haha) of creating a website feel exciting and less scary than it typically feels. I also appreciated so much how actively you listened to all of us and helped give us feedback and tips for how we could achieve the vision we are going for.”




Mar 18–Apr 29, 2021 11am-1pm 

Are you craving connection with others? When was the last time you felt seen and heard or expressed your feelings and gratitude towards your loved ones? It’s easy to feel isolated in these socially-distanced times. In this 8-session class, we will slow down together and get in touch with our senses and reflect on our relationship with ourselves and others with the goal of creating a multimedia “love letter” you can share. Through a series of prompts and exercises, students will learn visual-thinking strategies to analyze image structure and composition, practice the power of intentional gaze, and learn deep listening skills to make meaningful connections and build intimacy. We’ll utilize a blend of photography, video, text, sound, and storytelling to create a multimedia love letter using a website builder (no coding necessary).

This class will take place on a personal level; an open heart is required. This is not a technical class, but students will need a device that can record video and audio — anything from a smartphone to a Zoom recorder (we’ll go over basic recording and interviewing techniques).

- “If you want to learn more about yourself, you should try this class before going to a psychologist. Believe me, a lot will change in your life.”
- Zeynep Dildar Gürcan
click here to view Zeynep’s project

Meng's workshop is the right one for the times we are living. Exploring all the digital tools and dig deeper in our emotions to tell a personal story.
- Samuel Mustri

-“Challenging yet accessible class for anyone willing to grow as an artist and as a human being ! Thank you Meng for your wise teaching and gentle eye on our works... You pushed me to try things I never imagined I could do. <3”
-Lara Micheli
click here to view Lara’s project

Meng's workshop offered me the opportunity to dive into new ways of approaching projects and new techniques, truly eye opening for me. I enjoyed the class so much!
- Barbara Bühlmann


Tender Gaze:
Making Collaborative Portraits

Sun, August 23, 2020
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT

A two-hour interactive workshop on intentional gaze and ways of seeing.
let's connect by making film stills directed or starred by you!

i’m inviting you to join me in an interactive two-hour online workshop where we learn to develop a conscious way of seeing and practice intentional gaze in collaborative portrait making.

the intention for this workshop is to use this space to reflect, connect, play, and grow together.

*spoiler alert*: you will be asked to co-create a film still inspired by your favorite scenes co-directed by you and your workshop partner(s). you will either be the director, the cinematographer, the star, or any combinations of the roles. come prepared. <3

caption: this image can be better if done collaboratively.

in the workshop, together we will:
  • consider how we see and how we want to be seen
  • discuss the power of the gaze
  • use visual thinking strategies(VTS) to analyze images
  • consider the possibilities and limitations of visual language
  • making collaborative portraits using Zoom (a film still in this case)

- “I felt a positive reinforcement to look deeper and feel more when creating portraits and self-portraits or other work. This was such a great reminder and exercise to lean on my emotions and trust myself. I learned about a new photographer and will be looking more into their work. I also got to learn about and connect with a colleague who I've never met before.”
- Elaine

I loved the gazing exercise and the collaborative portrait at the end! So fun and interesting, and a great to way to connect with strangers over zoom.
- Kat

-“Thank you Meng! You were wonderful and inspiring and I cannot thank you enough for holding this workshop. As a young Asian photographer, it’s hard to find POC photographers to look up to. You are a great mentor!”
- Hannah

I like that the first exercise caused two people to literally fall in love. 
- Ingo

I enjoyed the crash course in contemporary portraiture before delving into the exercise. I learned new ways to think about Zoom as a way of seeing and as a way to create portraits of others. 
- Emily

MENGWEN CAO (they/them) is a photographer, artist and educator based in New York.

As a queer Chinese immigrant, they use care and tenderness to explore spaces between race, gender, and cultural identity. Their projects have been featured on publications like Aperture, Vogue, i-D, The New York Times and NPR. They have participated in international exhibitions like BredaPhoto, Photoville, Jimei Arles, Lianzhou Foto Festival.

Mengwen graduated from the New Media Narratives and Documentary Practice program at the International Center of Photography. They received NLGJA’s Excellence in Photojournalism Award in 2019. They were recognized by The Lit List in 2018, PDN 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 2019, World Press Photo 6x6 Global Talent in 2020 and Art in America 20 Talent to Watch in 2023.  

Previsouly, Mengwen has served as a board member of Authority Collective, championing space for diverse narratives and perspectives in the media industry.


  • 2022 Artist Talk, Women Photograph Workshop 2022, Zoom 
  • 2022 Artist Talk, Regis University, Denver
  • 2022 Guest Lecture, the University of Texas at Austin
  • Guest Lecture; MA Visual & Multimedia Journalism, University of Bolten, International Multimedia Journalism; Beijing, Zoom, 2020
  • Guest Lecture; I.S. 136 Charles O. Dewey; New York, USA, Zoom, 2020
  • Conversation; NüVoices Podcast: Gender, self-discovery, and vibe curation with Mengwen Cao, 2020
  • Guest Lecture; School of Visual Arts, New York, 2019
  • Conversation; "Center the Margins" ft Mary Kang, Melissa Bunni Elian, and Annie Tritt at Adorama, Women Photograph x Photo Brigade Pane, New York, 2019
  • Panel; Parallax: ReVisioning Queer and Trans People of Color in Photography, Photoville, New York, 2019


  • 6x6 Global Talent, World Press Photo, 2020
  • The Association of LGBTQ Journalists (NLGJA) Excellence in Photojournalism Award, 2019
  • PDN 30 New & Emerging Photographers to Watch, 2019
  • The Lit List: Photographers to Watch, Exhibit & Hire, 2018
  • Magnum Foundation Fellowship, 2018
  • Zhongnan Mountain Residency, 2017



My parents thought I had never been in love. We didn’t talk about relationships because I had a secret.

I created a video letter coming out to them and shared it with them via Facetime.

According to a UN 2016 report, only less than 6% of LGBTQ people in China are completely open about their identity in due to family and societal pressure.

This project aims to share raw and intimate moments and add to nuanced stories about Chinese queer community.

Here we are in spite of everything.





“I Stand Beween” creates a platform for Asian transracial adoptees of various ages and backgrounds to share their stories of navigating the in-between space of race and culture. 
The project aims to challenge the definition of authenticity and encourage people to embrace the multifaceted aspects of our identity.




I use tender gaze to explore the beauty and intimacy of queer and trans people of color lives. Joy and resilience exist in everyday life. In quiet moments, we keep becoming.




IDareU2Feel RADIO, 2020-ongoing

IDareU2Feel Radio is a self-preservation project that centers around vulnerability and play. In this visual diary started during COVID-19, I’m embedding my inner dialogues and cultural influences into self-portraits to unflatten layers of identity and reflect on what's happening politically and in society.

Living in the United States during Covid as a queer Chinese immigrant is stressful due to racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Turning the lens inward in the period of pandemic is my quiet resistance against violence and discrimination. I use image creation to cultivate a safe space where I place tender gaze at myself for the first time.

Welcome to my late night radio show.

︎Click to view project video

Collaborate with me ︎
Let’s collaborate! ︎

I always wonder if I grew up seeing more qtpoc folks savoring life and thriving in community, what would my life be?

I documented a journey where my QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) friends go on a retreat in nature that centers joy, play, rest and relationship. This past year we’ve experienced collective trauma from global pandemic, systemic racism and sexism. More than ever, we need a space to grieve, reflect and imagine a more liberated future.

Phone camera can be a democratic and powerful tool that allows people to be more intentional in life. I hope through documenting this journey, my images can inspire people to experience different healing methods, pay more attention to quotidian moments and express gratitude towards the beauty and connection around us.   

Ritual: Inaugural Ceremics Artist Line, 2021
Client: Wing On Wo

What rituals do we hold close and practice daily?
how can ceramic vessels make these sacred? 🔮


Client: Dove x Girlgaze x GettyImages

︎ Visit Project

︎Visit Photos I made for the project