"Leo" from "Transcend" project
​Photograph © Sandra Chen Weinstein

"Asher and Hart" from "Transcend" project
 ​Photograph © Sandra Chen Weinstein

 "Lee" from "Transcend" project
 ​Photograph © Sandra Chen Weinstein

 "Sandra and Lee" from "Transcend" project
 ​Photograph © Sandra Chen Weinstein

 “Untitled” from "SHE/They" project
 ​Photograph © Sandra Chen Weinstein

 ​ "Dignity for Palestine”
Photograph © Sandra Chen Weinstein

My adult child came out recently as queer, transgender, non-binary at age 28. I was surprised, but it took me no time to embrace my child as who they are. I am there for my child in the delicate transition of identity, psychological complexity, depression, challenge and discrimination.  My love for my child is infinite and unconditional; I support them and hope our example will help others.” 
Sandra Chen Weinstein
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I first became aware of Sandra Chen Weinstein's exceptional work several years ago at a private Portfolio Review at The Griffin Museum of Photography. Since then, her series "SHE/They" made a great impression in many of the exhibitions I've worked on. As she describes it's importance within the context of our time, "This series of candid, yet intimate, women portraits illuminates the dynamic and complex feminine psychology, the perception of tradition, love, identity and ideals in life. As a whole the work seeks to demonstrate how women inhabit diverse bodies and express complex forms of self-determination."

Sandra Chen Weinstein is a self-taught photographer whose work focuses on documentary photography, emphasizing social identity, culture, and minorities. She has dedicated long-term projects on women, minorities, and American pop culture, receiving numerous distinguished awards including 1st Prize in 2017 Kuala Lumpur' International Photo Awards, winner of Robert Cornelius Portrait Award and two-time winner of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award, among others. 

Curator Carol McCusker wrote about Chen Weinstein's exhibition "Dignity for Palestine” shown at the 2018 Auckland Festival of Photography, "Sandra’s images—often artfully framed, with a disarming intimacy—reveal a vibrant, complicated community, one we rarely see in the American press. Chen Weinstein walked the streets of the Arab West Bank, from Jerusalem, Jenin to Hebron, and took photographs. For many Palestinians, Chen Weinstein was the first Taiwanese/Chinese woman they had encountered; there is an openness toward her because of this. "Dignity for Palestine," a piece of instructional history comes quietly but indelibly across—the Palestinians are survivors"

And more recently I've had the honor of working privately with Ms. Chen Weinstein on her most personal project to date, "TRANSEND". I've been very moved by her early struggle whether to reveal her own private history within this series, ultimately spotlighting her story to bring awareness to other families.  I interviewed her between her travels about this new series so close to her heart.

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Elizabeth Avedon: An exhibition of 24 portraits from your latest series “TRANSCEND” was showing at the Rokko Photography Festival in Kobe, Japan and opening as a solo exhibition at the Mirage Gallery in Kobe June 15 to July 31. Tell me about the portraits that make up TRANSCEND.

Sandra Chen Weinstein: Like me, parents and fa­milies have gone through a lengthy and sometimes difficult time with their loved ones through some struggles during the transition of their child feeling “lost and found”. Sadly, however, a number of families have left their children to struggle on their own because they cannot accept such changes.  Parents who support their child are constantly in living fear for their child because the discrimination and retribution.  

These intimate portraits are of the LGBTQ community, their families and their loved ones. The subjects are photographed in their own environment to allow a more engaging view from their perspective and their families. They are displayed with their own quotes and audio recording of their voices about themselves and their loved ones. 

My goal is to unveil and celebrate the identity for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer with families, friends, and allies showing unconditional love and equality.  The work seeks to aid social justice against stereotype and stigma long existed.  

EA: How did this series begin? Was it personal in any way?

SCW: I started this project during 2016 while I was working on another series "SHE/ They."  It was mirroring the emotional journey I was on myself, as well as being inspired by my child on both projects.  It is very personal since my child came out as transgender non-binary at age 28, preferring the pronoun “THEY” in the beginning of 2016.   

EA: There are some very moving portraits in this series. How did you find the subjects in your photographs?

After my child came out to me, I sought support during the process of transition with my child.  I met some parents and family members of various groups that support the LGBTQ community.  I was fortunate to also learn of other subjects to photograph from friends and by word of mouth. 

EA: Is this series an evolution from your past work or how do you view it in the context of your overall career?

My portfolios, “Transcend” and "SHE/They," are both more intimate subjects to me perhaps than prior work. These capture the subject in portraits that are in a more personal space for them and for me. I was looking for inner emotion and dynamic range when the moments arose.

My photography is focused on the human condition and the complexity of both the physical and the psychological.  My sincerest hope is to use photography as a tool for social change in the humanity of the world. My work is greatly inspired and influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastiгo Salgado, Susan Meisela, Eli Reed when I started my photographic art.

EA: You have an eclectic array of subjects in your past work, all exceptional images, but all basically people. I’m thinking of your cowgirl at the rodeo in the Texas Photographic Society exhibition, your 17 images from your series “Facets of India” in La Revue de France Culture (N. 23), and your portraits and street photos in Palestine showing at the Auckland Festival of Photography.

SCW: I am interested in challenging subjects in photography and photographing people are the most challenging I’ve found.  I have been working on exploring identity in the complexity and diversity of social and cultural backgrounds.  I feel people are the key element to make any possible changes for a better world. People are continuing to evolve through differences and celebrating both their common and unique heritages.          

EA: How does your series “TRANSCEND” differ from the images you’ve shown at the Auckland Festival of Photography?

SCW: “Dignity of Palestine” is about the Palestinians’ struggles and surviving  in oppression, occupation, and life in an apartheid state and how that impacts lives, environment, their land, and country.  “Seoul Searching” is showing the extreme contrast from the North and South Korea across the DMZ contrasted with the pop culture life style for the South Korean. “Transcend” is about love and relationship in LGBTQ and their family portrayed in their homes or in a familiar environment. To me, they are all connected to who we are and our lives in both social and political subjects.            

 Sandra Chen Weinstein
June 15 to July 31, 2018
Mirage Gallery
Kobe-shi, Hyogo,
Japan  650-0012
Artist Gallery Talk, July 7, 2018

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Dignity for Palestine 
Seoul Searching
Auckland Festival of Photography2018

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