Nelson Chan was born in New Jersey to immigrant parents from Hong Kong and Taiwan and has spent most of his life between the States and Hong Kong. Having grown up on two continents with unique cultures, this immigrant experience has influenced the majority of Nelson's work. 

He is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, where he received a BFA and a graduate of the University of Hartford, Hartford Art School, where he received his MFA. Nelson is a co-founder of Brooklyn based, TIS books, an art book publishing house that concentrates on small edition photobooks. He is also the production manager of Aperture Foundation.