Clippings



Investigating Beijing’s Underbelly for Travel & Leisure

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure

Bejing is a notoriously hard city to pin down. It takes years of patient observation and interaction to start exposing the multifaceted nature of China’s capital. I can’t even begin to describe the number of parachute journalists who dropped in for a few days and unsuccessfully tried to capture the essence of the city. It was therefore a great pleasure to provide the photography for the one writer who got closest, Gary Shtenyngart. The satirical novelist spent a week or so in Beijing and left with quite a grasp of the many paradoxes the city has to offer. Maybe it came from his deadpan Russian roots, but he astutely picked apart the absurdities that make the city such a beguiling place to live. Humor is often the only way to get to the heart of the beast. Read the article here. Well done, sir, well done.

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure



    Fat Baby graces the cover of The New Republic for the Chongqing Dockers

    Fat Baby graces the cover The New Republic for the Chongqing Dockers

    I am very excited to announce that my portrait of Fat Baby is currently gracing the cover of The New Republic. Last fall I traveled down to Chongqing to photograph what would become the turning point in the season for the Dockers, the city’s first American football team. Fat Baby was one of the many characters involved in the ups and downs of this amazing venture. I usually provide a short summary of the articles I shoot, but this one needs to be read in its entirety. Chris Beam does an amazing job capturing the absurdities and struggles of this band of warriors. It’s an excellent look into some of the mutating facets of contemporary Chinese culture. It’s so good, in fact, that Sony Pictures bought the movie rights to the story. Maybe you will see Fat Baby on the big screen one day. Definitely a sports star for the ages.

    Matthew Niederhauser photographs the Chongqing Dockers for The New Republic

    Matthew Niederhauser photographs the Chongqing Dockers for The New Republic

    Matthew Niederhauser photographs the Chongqing Dockers for The New Republic

    Matthew Niederhauser photographs the Chongqing Dockers for The New Republic



      Counterfeit Paradises in the Media

      Counterfeit Paradises is seeing a lot of play this year. So far it was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek in the United States, Wired in the United Kingdom, and Sonntagsblick Magazine in Switzerland. A big Stern feature will also show up in Germany sometime in the coming months. More importantly, I am in the midst of speaking to a number of publishers about a Counterfeit Paradises book. Hopefully more details will become apparent in the near future. Otherwise, check out an updated description of the project as well as an expanded cut here.

      Given the choice between a good hell and a counterfeit paradise, what will people choose? Whatever you say, many people will believe that a counterfeit paradise has got to be better than a good hell. Though at first they recognize that the paradise is bogus, they either don’t dare or wish to expose it as such. As time passes, they forget that it’s not real and actually begin to defend it, insisting that it’s the only paradise in existence.” – Chan Koonchung

      China’s grand development plan continues to grow at an unrelenting pace. It is undoubtedly the largest infrastructure buildout in the history of mankind. However, too much is at stake to slow down such a gargantuan economic force, even as cracks appear in it across the country. Pollution, relentless traffic, and corruption are now a daily part of urban life. Counterfeit Paradises explores these cracks through the “harmonious” cities and sites of leisure emerging throughout China. Such locations are shaping a greater architecture of materialism that gives rise to unsustainable consumer patterns. A billion more people in China cannot live in the same manner as urbanites in American and Europe. The pooled natural resources of the planet could not bear it. For now the Chinese nouveau riche partake in an imagined space of contentment even as reassuring political rhetoric regarding the trappings of their “modern” lifestyles wears thin. This fantasy plays out in many spaces: newfangled municipal districts, communist heritage sites, amusement parks, cultural institutions, and themed luxury residential developments. They all serve to prop up a consumer paradigm that is increasingly important to the short-term economic growth of China but detrimental to its long-term sustainability. The hopes and dreams of many are woven into such spurious ventures, even if in practice many of them remain underused. These fanciful but alienating terrains are the Counterfeit Paradises of China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.

      Clippings from the Counterfeit Paradises project investigating urban development and leisure habits in China.



        Portraits of Gigi Chao, Asia’s Most Famous Lesbian, for The Times

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong for The Times weekend magazine.

        This was definitely one of the more interesting assignments to come my way. The story of Gigi Chao and her father, Cecil, who put up a large bounty (HK$500 million) to anyone who could wed and bed his lesbian daughter, went viral on the Internet late last year. As if her life weren’t storied enough growing up amongst the mansions, helicopters, and yachts of Hong Kong’s elite, she was suddenly the most famous lesbian in Asia and object of unwanted desire from a host of suitors around the world. My father in West Virginia even saw the story and sent me an email suggesting I take a trip from Beijing down to Hong Kong to see what was happening. Eight months later I was boarding a plane to try my luck… at taking her portrait for The Times. Fortunately she was gregarious and no stranger to the camera having already appeared in a host of magazines including a recent cover for Hong Kong Tatler. The shoot itself went very smoothly but was not the time or place to suggest absconding to Las Vegas to tie the knot. Gigi is already happily married to her partner, Sean, another scion of a wealthy Hong Kong family. The incident is far from over, though. It seems Sacha Baron Cohen caught onto the story and is preparing to film a parody of sorts. The absurdity of the entire situation is about to be severely compounded.

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong.

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong.

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong.

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong.

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong.

        Gigi Chao poses in a studio in Hong Kong.



          Girls’ Generation K-Pop Factory Girls for The New Yorker

          Clipping from The New Yorker's Factory Girls article featuring Girls' Generation.

          I am going to be playing catch up over the next month or two – lots of new work and clippings to share. These images are from an awesome article for The New Yorker delving into Korean pop music (aka K-pop). I flew down to Jakarta to witness a massive stadium concert featuring some of the biggest names in K-pop from S.M. Entertainment and take portraits of Girls’ Generation. The nine member group consists of Taeyeon, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona and Seohyun. It was easily one of my most stressful photographic experiences. The management closely grooms these girls for years and try to control their media presence very closely. They were suspicious of what The New Yorker would detail and didn’t provide me with any information on how to get into the stadium properly. I was lucky enough to find a sympathetic security guard who let me into the backstage area where I only had fifteen minutes to set up all my lighting gear and another fifteen minutes with Girls’ Generation to take the actual photographs. Luckily they had some nice pink satin backdrops that worked well with my ring flash. Girls’ Generation knew how to pose for the camera as well, of course. The New Yorker Photo Booth blog interviewed me about the shoot here. These are some of the hottest up-and-coming stars in K-pop.

          Girls' Generation perform live in a Jakarta stadium for an S.M. Entertainment showcase of Korean pop.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls Generation members pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta.

          Girls' Generation pose before their big stadium show in Jakarta



            “The Nine Lives of Ai Weiwei” Wins John Kobal Award at National Portrait Gallery

            Ai Weiwei poses in front of his studio with one of his newfound cats.

            I am very pleased to announce that I was given the John Kobal New Work Award in affiliation with the 2012 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portraiture Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London this November. It was quite a whirlwind of an evening, and I must say I was completely honored to be awarded amongst all the great work that also hangs in the 2012 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portraiture Prize exhibition. I can’t encourage people enough to go visit and see for themselves. It will be hanging in the National Portrait Gallery until February 17, 2013. The portrait of Ai Weiwei was originally commissioned for Foreign Policy’s 2011 edition of the Top 100 Global Thinkers issue. It has since gone on to appear on the cover of the Telegraph’s Seven Magazine as well as in other media outlets. Check out the installation shots below. It stands right at the entrance of the exhibition. Critics seem to dig it so far. Lastly, here is the text from the accompanying catalog:

            “Matthew Niederhauser’s fascination with China was forged during his high-school studies in Mandarin, and the American photographer now lives in Beijing, where he documents aspects of Chinese life for a range of publications including The New Yorker and Time. Artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, the subject of Niederhauser’s entry, has crossed those lines on many occasions. At the time the portrait was taken, as a commission for Foreign Policy magazine, Ai was being held under virtual house arrest and forbidden to leave China following his three-month detention a year earlier. Wanting to capture Ai with one of the many cats that hang around his compound, Niederhauser persuaded him to pose with a ginger stray, its colouring setting off the teal-blue gates of the studio. ‘There was a tense moment when I didn’t think the cat was going to cooperate, but it finally glanced back, allowing me to get a few frames with everything melding together.’

            All selected photographers under the age of 30 were eligible for the first John Kobal New Work Award. The winning photographer receives a cash prize of £4,000 and a commission from the Gallery to photograph a sitter connected with the UK film industry. The Award was judged by Simon Crocker, Chairman of the John Kobal Foundation, and writer and journalist Liz Jobey, a Trustee of the John Kobal Foundation.”

            Matthew Niederhauser, recipient of the John Kobal New Work Award during award ceremony of the Taylor Wessing Awards 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery on November 5, 2012 in London, England.National Portrait Gallery 2012 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portraiture Prize installation of The Nine Lives of Ai Weiwei

            Cover clipping of the Telegraph Seven Magazine's The Nine Lives of Ai Weiwei

            Interior clipping of the Telegraph Seven Magazine's The Nine Lives of Ai Weiwei



              Counterfeit Paradises in GEO France

              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Chateau Montaigne

              My Counterfeit Paradises series made made a strong appearance in GEO France this summer. Fourteen pages of shanzhai awesomeness. The magazine commissioned me to shoot all of my favorite ersatz European developments around China. This is only part of the Counterfeit Paradises oeuvre as China’s grand development strategies continue to spread at an unrelenting pace. The series explores the cracks in “harmonious” cities coming into being throughout China, as well as sites of leisure and luxury now enjoyed by the urban elite. This nouveau riche partake in an imagined space of contentment and growth even as a gap widens between the promising rhetoric espoused by municipal governments regarding urban planning and actual implementation. This fantastical future plays out in many spaces including newfangled urban districts, cultural institutions, amusement parks, and themed residential developments. In practice, many remain underused, fanciful but alien terrains. Most of the hopes and dreams woven into this urban fabric remain false in nature. These are only a smattering of the many Counterfeit Paradises in China.

              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Tianducheng
              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Florentia Village
              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Little Holland
              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Thames Town
              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Weimar Town
              Counterfeit Paradise debuts in GEO France - Broad Corporate Campus



                “Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction” – Visions of Modernity in Foreign Policy

                Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction Clipping

                Foreign Policy’s current issue on urban development focuses almost exclusively on China. Relying on research by the McKinsey Global Institute, the magazine delves into the 75 fastest developing metropolises on the planet, 29 of which are in China (Shanghai and Beijing top the list, respectively). It is well worth perusing the actual magazine, which features photographs from my Visions of Modernity project, and delves into the serious ramifications of China’s ambitious infrastructure projects. Many of these unprecedented developmental efforts appear more and more misguided. My panorama of clustered residential developments surrounding the Huilongguan subway stop in northern Beijing, seen above, accompanies a piece entitled Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction. The article investigates many of the issues I explore in Visions of Modernity, the foremost being the unsustainable nature of urban planning in China and how it effects consumer, transportation and leisure habits.

                The Foreign Policy website also features a series from Visions of Modernity where I documented Ikea customers in Beijing who partake in leisurely afternoons settling into faux showrooms scattered throughout the store. Each photograph suspends the shoppers in their appropriated Ikea environments, as if they were in their own homes. Such nascent nesting and consumer habits are catalyzed by the proliferation of individualized apartments in towering residential developments. These are known as megablocks and have become the cornerstone of Chinese urban planning. The monotonous and imposing structures dominate metropolises across China, forming urban islands that extinguish any sense of fluidity within cities. Although Foreign Policy delves into transportation and architectural projects that give some cause for optimism, such stratagems simply don’t exist on a scale to keep up with the massive urban migration China is experiencing and the concomitant demands on natural resources and energy. In many ways, I must agree with Ai Weiwei’s dark assessment of the plight of China’s cities. It can all seem very bleak. More panoramas of Beijing from Visions of Modernity are below.

                Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
                Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
                Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks



                  “Building the American Dream in China” for The New York Times Magazine

                  Matthew Niederhauser's opening spread for "Building the American Dream, In China" in The New York Times Magazine

                  I finally got an opportunity to shoot for The New York Times Magazine. They sent me to Harbin with Daniel Gillen, a young American architect who transplanted to Beijing to ride the wave of audacious infrastructure projects being built across China. He currently works for MAD, founded by Ma Yansong and one of the leading domestic firms in China. Over the past few years MAD was tapped to build a number of cultural centers and museums in their consistently curvilinear style, including the recently completed Ordos Museum and the China Wood Sculpture Museum that I photographed in Harbin. Unfortunately these grand architectural flourishes are usually just showpieces in much larger megablock developments – a small nod to innovation amongst a greater sea of mundane urbanity. Whether or not they actually see any use is still in question. In an ideal world they will become centers of creativity, but in the meantime, Daniel Gillen is only there to build them.

                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.

                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses underneath the Harbin Cultural Island.
                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses with the Harbin Cultural Island.

                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses with the Harbin Cultural Island.

                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.
                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses outside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.

                  MAD architect Daniel Gillen poses inside the Harbin Wood Sculpture Museum.



                    “Tigress Tycoons” for Newsweek

                    Zhang Xin/张欣, Yang Lan/杨澜, Zhang Yan/张兰 and Amy Chua pose for a portrait at Capital M in Beijing, China for Newsweek.

                    This was one of my most intimidating assignments to date: a portrait of three of the richest females in China along with Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in less than ten minutes before their power dinner. It really was a Tigress Tycoons showdown. The leader of the streak, in my eyes, was Zhang Xin/张欣 (far right). Her company, SOHO China, is easily one of the top real estate developers in China, building some of the most daring (and sometimes dastardly) megablocks in the country. These properties reshaped Beijing’s skyline and netted her about $2.7 billion. Forbes and the Financial Times consistently list Zhang Xin as a top businesswomen in Asia. Her biography is also staggering. She saved up money working in Hong Kong garment sweatshops before moving to England to study at Cambridge and on to New York City to work at Goldman Sachs. Amazing. Next to Zhang Xin is Yang Lan/杨澜, also know as the “Oprah of China” thanks to her massive television presence and media empire. While not a rags to riches story like Zhang Xin, Yang Lan hit it big on Chinese domestic television, sometimes garnering viewing audiences in the hundreds of millions. She was one of the first talk show hosts in mainland China who really spoke her mind and cofounded Sun Television Cybernetworks.

                    Last and certainly not least of the Tigress Tycoons is Zhang Yan/张兰 (far left). She founded the popular South Beauty restaurants with now boasts over forty locations throughout the country. Known for their opulent settings, they also serve up extremely tasty Sichuan fair. Zhang Yan completed the female power trifecta. Amy Chua is nothing to scoff at of course, but fits into a different category with her academic and literary accolades. Her book promoting the “Tiger Mother” parenting method  sent waves around the world, especially in mainland China. There is even now an “Eagle Dad” spinoff category. Anyway, it was a bit tense at first getting all the ladies together, but thanks to the antics of Zhang Xin’s husband, Pan Shiyi, who decided to take photos along with me, the ten minutes passed without a hitch. Be sure to check out Amy Chua’s accompanying profile of the Tigress Tycoons.

                    Zhang Xin/张欣, Yang Lan/杨澜, Zhang Yan/张兰 and Amy Chua pose for a portrait at Capital M in Beijing, China for Newsweek.





                      All content © 2014 to Matthew Niederhauser