YMA/Here by David Mayne

A community in transition

from ‘YMA/Here’ © David Mayne

Yma/Here began as a long-term project documenting the urban topography of South Wales and the West of England. It has since grown to include other work. The project is an ambiguous and wide-ranging examination of the urban topography of South Wales and the West of England from 2016 to 2018. 

YMA/Here is visually encyclopedic in a great way…with the eye of an archivist or a taxonomist with a strong wink of humor thrown in. For example, Mayne shows escalators and stairways followed by a single image of a slide next to an outdoor set of steps up and embankment. I really like this aspect of comparing and contrasting one’s surroundings and placing them in context.

Mayne crafts his ‘retail death’ analogy of people (in cities) to blood (which carries money like oxygen) to the various cells within (businesses, infrastructure, etc). “The blood analogy grew over time,” says Mayne. “In my work, I repeatedly visit the same places usually at intervals of 6, 12 and occasionally 18 months at a time. I noticed a pronounced shrinkage of the retail space in a number of places. In a given street, a shop would close, then another, which led to a decrease in foot traffic and eventually the other shops would shut too. Soon enough a street would be empty of retail and the process would continue until a town is left with a core that barely survives – a process of atrophy and then ‘retail death’. Sadly, it’s all too common under the onslaught of internet shopping and out of town retail outlets.”

from ‘YMA/Here’ © David Mayne

One of Mayne’s visual strengths is the strong interplay and juxtaposition between images – old versus new shopping locations, pictures of coin operated ride-on cars for kids, and artistic murals versus the union jack painted on the side of a building, Christian crosses on different structures, etc. There is also a nice thematic grouping of images in Yma/Here: either by aesthetics (like composition or elements visually in the frame) or taxonomy (like parking lots versus parking garage, small businesses versus shopping centers, residential versus commercial buildings or districts, etc..) The compositions throughout play with, or break, the classic rules-of-thirds while keeping all the images in a consistent square format throughout the book. For example, on pages 40 and 41: the steps and railings pictured in the left frame flow into the recto image. The railings and the repetition of the rectangular bricks are echoed in the windows and storefronts in a companion image. It’s a wonderful example of the power of editing images in book format.

from ‘YMA/Here’ © David Mayne

The text in the book is presented in English and Welsh language – the Welsh translation being a tip of the hat to Mayne’s immediate family, the history of Wales, and its ongoing struggles. The reader is given background information on the project, and some insights to the creative process behind the book.

The initial feeling I got both Mayne’s foreword essay was personal and descriptive…there is a good sense of progression and telling of the backstory for the project, and a healthy dose of facts and details to support the story… without overshadowing your narrative. 

The visual style used in the project and the book fully supports his inspiration. Mayne specifically mentions the work of Victorian era photographer Francis Frith, whose work was promoted by an UK academic and photographer, Bill Jay. Jay was able to save a large body of Firth’s work, recognizing its importance in the general vernacular of urban topographic photography and as a historic record. The “Frith-style” visually imparts the feeling of a conscious decision to abstract an image rather than a straight, tack-sharp documentary record. Mayne adopted this style in the genesis of the project and carried it throughout in an adopted style choice which serves his subject matter well.

from ‘YMA/Here’ © David Mayne

Mayne has continued with his visual approach (albeit in color) with newport-land. It is a quiet reflection upon the meaning of place where human presence is all but removed, and only the structures, layouts, artifacts and the psychological space remain. Photographed between May 2019 and July 2020, newport-land represents an outsiders exploration of a city at an important time in its history. While the project dovetails nicely with YMA/Here, it is a small part of a larger and ongoing project entitled ‘The Moment It Ended’.

from ‘YMA/Here’ © David Mayne

YMA/Here by David Mayne
Contains 94 black and white photographs and text. 
112 pages, 200 gsm, silk finish. 
Cover 300 gsm, laminated finish. 
Perfect bound

About – David Mayne works as a researcher and photographer for a London based data collection agency. He studied photography at Bridgend College and Cardiff School of Art and Design (Cardiff Metropolitan University). He graduated with a first class honours degree in Photographic Practice. He lives in South Wales with his family.

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