A story that must be told. And shared.

We does for love what others would not do for money.

— Photo Hackers Nation

If you search on the web you will find almost nothing. Yes, because MA TE, after some online revelations and persistent rumors about scams and harassment, decided to obscure all her social media accounts, close Facebook and disappear.
But let’s go in order.

Until recently, Ma Te presented herself as a sweet 24-year-old Chinese girl. Reading her biography present on many online sites, one could read how her love for photography drove her to create images and art. This young and talented photographer had 2 books already pubblished and a third incoming. A huge book, printed and bound by hand. A real wonder thinking that this girl did everything alone. A true prodigy, not surprisingly many people followed her on social media, supported her and bought her books. A LOT OF PEOPLE. But we will come back to this later.

Take a look how she present herself in the biography she wrote on her website “Diary of Chai” -now offline-.

Read carefully how she describe herself in her “modest” biography.

The story starts from a fact that happened on Facebook the 18 of November this year. Ma Te still had her active account she used to collect orders, keep in touch with fans and sell his photos. One day, among the many posts, one comes out concerning an alleged fraud against her perpetrated by a well-known Dutch art gallery owner. Ma Te post the photo of this man, citing name and saying that she had been robbed and scammed of her photographs after a meeting with him in Hong Kong. She reiterated the fact that this person had endangered her disclosing her telephone number publicly and proclaiming that from that day onwards, because of the gallery owner’s fault, her life would be in danger due to the Chinese government. In China, in fact, as she claim, her life was constantly in danger because of her art. Not only that, she also said that the gallery owner keep some of her photos by paying only part of the amount due. Many people immediately commented and took action to help the Chinese girl. Insults and threats from social networks but among the participants in the discussion also good photographers and wealthy collectors. Something was wrong. Were the allegations true? Could this man really have done such a thing? Was the girl really in danger?

This is a screenshot of what she post on her Facebook page about the Dutch Art Dealer. You can still read the allegations made and how she presented the events. “How an Art Dealer destroyed me”.

In our experience, a gallery owner hardly gets into embarrassing situations. Because a gallery owner works above all on the reputation and trusted customers who rely on him to buy and invest. So first we contacted the gallery owner by phone who told us how things went from his point of view. And he told us about her suspicions that this young Chinese artist might not be the author of the photos.

The following are the results of many investigations, international phone calls, a Chinese team that managed to contact models and people who had been photographed or who had met Ma Te in China, at work. First of all we want to thank all the Chinese girls who contacted us and our team who managed to work miracles by recovering incredible materials in no time. We dedicate this investigation to them, because it is right to help those who have no voice.

First of all, who is Ma Te? Is she really a young prodigy-girl who came out of the Chinese countryside?

The answer is no. MA Te is an alias. HIS real name is MAtthias AusTEl (make sense right), a 40-year-old German graphic designer and amateur photographer. Probably born in Dortmund according to what we can see from his Linkedin profile. He graduated in graphic design in Dortmund in 1980, following one interview with a media chinese website, move to china do discover the beauty of china and chinese arts.

but if Ma Te is a man, who is the girl that everyone has met at exhibitions and events? Who is the person the Dutch gallery owner met in Hong Kong?

Her name is 王玲 – her family name is Wang-. She is actually the young Chinese girl you can see in the Ma Te profile pictures, and Matthia’s girlfriend.

Contrary to what has always been said, the girl works only as a puppet, a nice face to present to the pubblic. She probably can’t even know how to take a picture, you can see her on the set helping out but her tasks are different and far more important.
First: look for Chinese girls to photograph. Young and cute. The girl 王玲, uses her name to contact models or young students from high school, saying that she wants to photograph them. Once arrived in the studio, the girls discover that it will not be our Chinese artist to photograph them, but an older foreign man. -Our sources of information here say that most of the times they have never granted the photographer any authorization to publish the photos, finding out only after they have been published in books or that their image is sold in all the world, a circumstance which, due to the delicacy of the situations and the distance with the mainland China, we never managed to verify, however we have chat documents with these girls where they repeatedly ask that the photos be removed and deleted. The German photographer’s answers are reassuring and mellifluous .-

Here are some scren of how the girl 王玲 alias Ma Te introduced herself to the models and how they then managed the cancellation requests -never happened-. According to Chinese media, many of these girls, did not have the courage to report. It is still so today. Many of them are ashamed, some have organized themselves and are putting law enforcement in motion.

In addition to recruiting models and girls for the shooting, the Chinese girl has another task, MUCH MORE IMPORTANT and profitable. Throughout the world, SHE must be Ma Te, the young prodigy photographer looking for help and protection againt the evil Chinese gov. She keeps in touch and goes to exhibitions, meets collectors and suporters, creates special ties with wealthy people or who work in the world of art and photography. She creates stories and relationships with foreigners who are happy to help such a talented artist. During our investigation we was able to speak directly with collectors, businessman and bookshop owners all over the world. Some thought they had a special relationship with the girl, they was happy to help her. Kind people who built a website for her and maintained it. Booksellers who managed the sales network for her in European and American countries. With each of them she opened a private communication channel, sent photos of everyday life, told stories of art and beauty.

When we want to bought the books through her Facebook profile, we also talked to the one who introduced herself as Ma Te, a shy and reserved Chinese girl. Ready to send us the Paypal form for the purchase of the last monumental book. From the cost of more than 230 dollars, Concrete Dream. 48 pages (Orihon, 12 meters long) – 29,5 x 43 cm First edition limited to 88 copies. Number 35/88. Signed. We all have some book printing experience, this book was not cheap to print. And from what our chinese sources have told us, this money was also recovered through donations and requests for money from the girl to lovers and supporters. She can’t take pictures, but she can do the math!

And the role of Matthias in all this?

While the Chinese girl was busy with foreigners, the German designer worked on the Chinese front. He presented himself as a young German artist with many dreams and little money.

For Matthias it was fundamental to remain in the shadows Only in this way could the couple make as much profit as possible from the work they were doing. We always loke this example: I enter a concert hall and I see little Mozart playing the piano. He is 10 years old and plays divinely. He is a prodigy and I take him around the world, his talent and his young age are inseparable and essential factors. Different story if entering a concert hall I saw a 40-year-old man playing the piano very well. I’d probably think he’s really good, but I certainly wouldn’t scream at the prodigy. This is precisely the mechanism behind this story. Ma Te presented herself as a very young self-taught photographer. Her books and photos told a different story, an expressive maturity that was immediately recognized as a great skill. But the age factor is clearly playing a central role. Precisely for this reason the German never had to appear. For this and also for all the lovers-supportes scattered around the world of course.

The question of Mao’s photo

One of the first things that had come up in the discussion with the Dutch art dealer was precisely the photo of the naked girl lying on the photo of Mao -see below-. The model we then managed to contact confirmed to us that she had never give permission for the publication of her image, and not only that, that she had asked several times for that photo to be deleted. Ma Te has always refused, but it is not enough. She always attributed the photo to herself, as taken by her. On several occasions she has quarreled about this fact, even sending backstage photos that had to prove the fact that in that room there was only her and the model. Which is not true. Below you can see our chat with the Chinese model, the photo of Mao and the video that shows how Matthias was in the room, ready to shoot fixing the set. Lol.

The video shows Matthias intent on fixing sync TV. His “wife” 王玲 is sitting on the sofa ready to take the fake backstage photos that portray her while photographing the model. The model herself is the author of the video. Nothing more to prove we think.

The 11th Institutional Photography Awards 2019

The Chinese website that first broke the news also found that with these photos, the girls Ma Te was among the finalists of this prestigious photographic prize in China this year, present at the exhibition and at the award ceremony as can be seen from the photos. What they did not discover, however, is that the same awarded photos belong, as expected, not to her, but to her husband. As demonstrated by this 2008 Italian blog that clearly presents the same photo with the name of its true author. Matthias Austel precisely. The organizers, thinking of rewarding a young emerging artist, did not realize that they had photos taken and already presented more than 11 years earlier by the German.

The economic and moral issue.

As a collector and as a book buyer we have the right to know what and who we’r buying from. Don’t get me wrong, I think artisitic projects, creative couples and Banksy are legitimate and beautiful things. Nobody forbids anyone to call themselves another name, give themselves a title or buy a camera prentendig to be the chinese Araki. But if you tell me you are a 24 yo Chinese girl and then we find out that you are a 40-year-old German pervert, we will get pissed. We are also angry because the quality of the photos is good and I would probably have bought your book anyway (ok now not anymore buddy), if the photos are beautiful they are beautiful. Point. So why lie? Lying because her pretty face sells better than his bald head, and this way they can sell many more books with the Pretty-Chinese-Prodigy-face girl on cover.

Throughout our investigation we have repeatedly tried to contact Ma Te to ask for an explanation.

Photo Hackers.

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/cc1oilvbzh_nNwchagI6Dg?fbclid=IwAR0zBMproOeoykFbLF6pzPF7v9bZosB2obaUZFRkOpVxzK75K5DS01TUJBM

This is the article about this story recently appeared in some Chinese media. You can find even more information.

Thanks to everyone who helped us. Thanks to our Magic Chinese team without which we could not have reached the end.

Comment this website if you need help, if you know more about them or If you wanna share your story.

If you are Matthias Austel or his wife, please just leave. No place for you here.

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