“The project first began when I got back into Beijing in October 2007. I was moving back from New York, and I had a friend from college who was out here unexpectedly, working on the soundboard at this music club, D-22.
I made a point of going to the club as soon as I got in. I went up there one night with my camera and I was completely blown away by the music. I saw this band called Joyside, and another band called The Subs. I went up there for 2-3 nights straight, and I was just so impressed. Lots of times when I had seen live music in China, in 2004 and 2005, it was certainly nothing to write home about. But everything had really stepped up.
I approached the club and said I wanted to hang out and take photos. They had this office on the second floor and I decided I was going to go in there and shoot some portraits of this band that needed images for their MySpace page. And that’s when I first took one of the ‘red wall portraits’. That was with a band called Hedgehog. It’s one of the most well known of those pictures now – the girl with the boxing gloves.
It was such a great photo and I imagined at that point that I would start shooting everyone who came through D-22. I’d create this consistent look with the photographs, while also showing that so many different music scenes were moving through this one club, whether it’s rock, or electronic, or punk, or folk, or experimental.
I did that for about two and half years – I still do it now. Shooting hundreds of performers from all over China. The club basically paid for my taxis and gave me free alcohol – and that was it.
What’s occurring here is a very international collaboration or community of people who are interested in that, and whether it’s artists, curators, or gallery directors – it’s a very eclectic mix to say the least. I feel that the contemporary art scene is much more Chinese, but people are thinking on a global scale now and trying to interact with international artistic communities. And in that sense there’s definitely a bi-lingual nature to it.
The music and the arts scene are what have kept me here. I moved back here in 2007 thinking I might stay a year but there’s been such a creative explosion I can’t leave. You also see a lot of the more experimental musicians, like Yan Jun, run in a lot of the same circles as the contemporary Chinese artists. A lot of their theoretical positions on creativity are very close.”
excerpt of an interview Christen Cornell. continue reading here
More of Matthew’s work here