Matthew Niederhauser September 15, 2014Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in China.
Ai Weiwei poses in front of his studio with one of his cats. Beijing 2012
Matthew Niederhauser’s (b.1982, USA) interest in Asia and photography emerged in high school with Mandarin courses and late nights in the darkroom. His photography covering youth culture and urban development in China has appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic, Wired, Stern, Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, Le Monde, Foreign Policy, and TIME His first monograph Sound Kapital delved into Beijing’s underground music scene through portraiture and concert photography. Otherwise he continues to concentrate on two projects entitled Kapital Creation and Counterfeit Paradises that explore harmonious cities and emerging consumer trends across China. Matthew earned his MFA in Art Practice through the School of Visual Arts which allowed him to continue his studies while remaining in the Middle Kingdom.
About the Photograph:
“I was very familiar with Ai Weiwei’s oeuvre before taking his portrait. A number of my friends work in his studio, and as an avid China watcher, I stay on top of his new creations and tangles with the Chinese Communist Party. He is always popping up in the news. This definitely put a little pressure on me before the shoot. I really admire how he holds himself and wanted to capture something that would stand out from his other portraits. Plus, I generally work in the moment, so I had to suss everything out in the hour allotted to me at his studio. Working with him ended up being a breeze, though. I spent about twenty minutes scouting the grounds before positioning him in various locations. I let him assume his own poses and offered suggestions occasionally. The only oddity was that Ai Weiwei enjoys taking photographs of photographers as they take his portrait. A number of my shots are of him with his iPhone trained on me. It became a bit of a game of cat and mouse as we took pictures of each other. This portrait was one of the last ones I took that morning. I wanted to capture him with one of the many cats that hang around his studio. I choose an orange kitten since it set off the teal of Ai Weiwei’s front gate so well. There was a tense moment when I didn’t think the kitten was going to cooperate, but it finally glanced back allowing me to get a few frames with everything melding together.”