Alumna Artist: Photographer: Elena Chan

From Thailand to Madagascar, Photographer Elena Chan has no trouble connecting with the people opposite her lens.

Photographer Elena Chan

She offers us photos that capture deeply connected moments in her travels and life.  Elena invited CUArts to join her, and a group of students interested in learning more about photography, on a walking tour from Manhattan to Brooklyn. That is when we began to understand that Elena isn’t just busy snapping photographs, her goals extend with and beyond her art.

Among Elena’s many passions, photography and social work top the list.  While most of us are daydreaming up ways to combine the things we love into a viable career option, Elena has been dreaming up a creation of her own “Passion from Pain,” her vision for a non-profit organization giving children who have experienced trauma the opportunity to document their lives and process their experiences through photography. Inspired by the resilient youth in New York City’s Child Welfare System Elena’s concept would utilize Photo Therapyto empower youth and promote healing.

Photography Walking Tour Group

Judy Weiser, Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre, explains how useful photographs can be in helping people find ways to represent and deconstruct important moments in their lives when words fail them.[i]

Elena has seen firsthand how people can turn difficult circumstances into beautiful and powerful forms of self-expression. Reflecting on this process she says, ” passion, frustration and anger can be used to create positive change.” The project is something close to her heart,  she confides that photography helped her to express herself when it seemed impossible to with words alone.

One of the most captivating things about Elena’s photographs is

Elena Chan (right) with a student photographer

her connection with complete strangers. Even in passing interactions Elena approaches her subjects with a profound level of  respect. The people in her photographs appear at ease and deeply connected to a degree so intense, it feels very personal. In speaking with Elena she reveals that, in photography like social work, elements of trust and comfort are essential parts of the process, stating, “It’s not always just about getting a specific image, but more about the respect you give to the person, that makes for an amazing picture.”

For a glimpse at our walking tour and some of Elena’s photographs watch the video below!

If you have more questions for Elena you can post them here or email her directly at

Tonya Marie Reid, CUSSW ’10


About Tonya Reid

Harlem-based Art Enthusiast.
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8 Responses to Alumna Artist: Photographer: Elena Chan

  1. Josh says:

    amazing shots elena, what a gift you have not only capturing shots but connecting the dots to those who are on the other side of the lens. way to go!

  2. Beautiful post… well done, Elena! I want to tour NYC with you one day.

  3. Tanya says:

    Amazing and inspirational article. Elena is a beautiful person and talented photographer. Best wishes to you!

  4. MiFOCALS says:

    Very cool Elena!

  5. Jay says:

    Great article! Elena, your vision is truly inspiring!!

  6. Andy says:

    great read – well done!

  7. Beautiful shots you guys took! I really love photography. It’s actually, in my mind – a work of art. It doesn’t matter what type of camera you have but how you use it.. that’s what makes a good photographer.

  8. Great shots. i hope i can do the same too.

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