I have not met artitudeshanghai, we did the interview over weChat, reFrame-reFocus in English and he in Chinese. So a few things needed to be sorted out later. I first came across artitudeshanghai’s work on Tumblr having been alerted by a Chinese friend who is in the fashion industry. The work is markedly different to work from the USA or Europe. I wrote about this work as part of the ‘playful’ essay. I’m glad we had the opportunity to chat and he has given us permission to present a gallery.
Tell us about how you became interested in photography?
About 7 or 8 years ago, one of my bosses was a professional photographer. I saw his work and I really liked it, then I started to be interested in photography. I bought a camera and lens to shoot. I tried scenic and humanity themes. But later I saw pictures with male bodies; they were very beautiful so I started to photograph in this theme.
Why male bodies? There is no tradition of male bodies in Chinese art, is there?
I think not. My major was not art or design, so it is just my personal feeling that I haven’t seen it before. However the traditional Chinese art is very conservative with nudity.
What did you study? What is your day job?
My major was pharmaceutical, and now I am working in a U.S. company as marketing manager.
How has your study affected how you photograph?
I don’t think there is any influence… lol… Maybe there was some from my childhood, I learnt drawing… I do photography more for what angle and position I like.
Does your understanding of the body you obtained during your studies affect how you see and photograph?
Yes, after you do several photo shootings, there is the preferable angle and feeling for light/shadow.
Tell us about the sort of subject/model you like? (I have a theory that what affects us most in how we see is what we study first at university.)
I am not so strict with body; I prefer not fat, but like some muscles (later I became more picky with body), also not muscular models. What I haven’t changed is I don’t like a too manly or mature appearance. I always put more emphasis on appearance than figure.
It is more difficult to make a fat man look good in a nude photo because we are told that is not “sexy”. What makes a Chinese man sexy? How does these things compare to the white man in much of male nude photography?
As with globalization, the aesthetics are converging. Many Chinese gay guys also like muscular men. However there is always a difference between people’s definition of sexy. Not much is related to ethnicity. In my eyes, the sexy of eastern men is a tranquil, internalized feeling. It is not aggressive, neither is it strong on visual shock.
Can you tell us more about the Chinese attribute you see as sexy? Can these all be captured in a photograph?
I think I focus more on the beauty of picture, not much about whether the model is sexy or not. Usually it is difficult to capture beautiful moments. I probably can capture 50% of them.
I noticed many of your photographs appear to be made in five star hotels? Tell me about your choice of surroundings.
There is always one moment I feel beautiful, when the model is most relaxed. However this moment is as written in water, hard to copy or recreate, not possible to capture.
We so agree.
I do lots of business travel, so it’s convenient to photograph in my hotel. But I do have criteria for a hotel room. I tried photo shooting in a studio but I don’t like its feeling, it is too commercial and formal. I tried outdoor shooting also but it takes too much energy so I only did it once. After all I am not professional.
I noticed one set of photos in an abandoned building. Do you enjoy shooting in this sort of dirty messy environment, which is the opposite of a nice hotel room? Tell us about the different in meaning for you.
No special meaning, I just wanted to find a place without people. I don’t put any special meaning or theme on my photos.
Are the models friends or…?
Haha, some became friends after shooting.
I was looking for more of the emotional response and reasons rather than a history.
There was not much emotional reason, but to record what I think is beautiful.
Where does your sense of “beautiful” come from? What/who influences what is beautiful?
Everyone has the sense of beautiful. It’s innate I think. Maybe there is influence from acquired things, but fundamentally it’s inborn. It seems not influenced by others. What I feel beautiful doesn’t fit others’ taste. For example, many people don’t like my photos; they think my model is not manly, without enough muscle. Like the taste of certain foods. It is individual feeling, and shouldn’t be affected much by someone. I don’t think I can learn the feeling of beauty; it is the accumulation from life experiences.
In your photographs there is a “softness” both with the men and the surroundings. Mostly your photographs appear to be an observation of a man in a hotel room being natural. The nudity does not look forced. It seems matter-of-fact, it just is. Would that be a correct way of reading the photos?
Actually, there is not any wrong way of reading; experience and feeling are very individual. If you would say that I want to express something, I just want to show a kind of atmosphere, room, light and shadow, including male nudity. What I really want to express is a tranquil and natural atmosphere. My models don’t have any emotion (seldom have), I determined to not let them express their emotion, but let everyone read into it what they will.
Which photographers do you admire?
Sun Jun, Hahah, he is my friend too, I like his Chinese style. There is another young photographer, Gao Xuan. I feel good seeing his works.
Thanks. You look more to Chinese photography and ignore photography from the USA/Europe?
Actually I like Greg Gorman also.
Tell us about the equipment you use and how important equipment is in your photography
I use Nikon’s camera and lenses. I prefer 24 mm and 35mm lenses. And I like natural light.
Is it a full frame or aps sized sensor?
D800, Full frame.
Wow, serious camera!
Haha. I don’t think equipment is important. The sense of photography is more important. Good equipment makes it easier to capture the scene you want. I would keep photographing what I like, maybe try something new… Everything is unknown.
You can see a portfolio of his work (here) and follow him on Tumblr
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