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Work / Photography

Go underneath Manhattan in Sean Vegezzi’s decade-long photography project, DMYCC 

DMYCC, a photographic project and subsequent book by Sean Vegezzi, poses many questions on architectural city developments in its mammoth load of images. The huge tome, published by Loose Joints, is almost like a historical artefact, documenting a “loose chronological narrative” of the photographer’s fascination with an underground area in Manhattan. 

Created over a decade, the space DMYCC is centred around is one of the many tunnels built by the New York City Transit Authority for the Second Avenue Subway, initiated in 1970. Considered “a convoluted and controversial subway line that was proposed as early as 1919, and partially realised in 2017,” once the tunnel was initially constructed it was then overlooked entirely until Sean discovered it. Kept empty and deteriorating, the photographer has documented his efforts to access it, trespassing, alongside his and a group of friends’ efforts to improve it into “a private recreational domain”. 

Entered through ground-level hatches and manholes, the book begins by showing a shot of the entrance and the developed areas the tunnel sits underneath. Large high-rises kept perfectly clean contrast the dusty, concrete-like shell below; and Sean’s friends secretly enter day or night, no matter the weather. “As their surrounding city experienced aggressive development and a hyper-securitisation of public and private realms, Sean and his friends were drawn towards undefined space to pursue their own forms of autonomy and release,” explains Loose Joints. “From early adolescence onward, they leveraged this piece of failed architecture into an alternate social forum, stage, club and studio space.” 

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However after a party in the tunnel left it dilapidated, Sean began to develop the space into a large scale renovation to conclude in an exhibition of photography taken within the tunnel itself. Yet, “as intense preparation for the exhibition was unexpectedly discovered and halted, security measures increased and the group’s engagement with the space took on the current contours of the project,” says the publishers. All parts of this secret operation are documented within DMYCC, and despite the group trespassing, throughout the book you are consistently on the side of the photographer, forcing you to question if the project is unjust as the group are just trying to make a decaying space better and usable.

Sean’s photography, which utilises multiple formats of 35mm, medium format, Polaroid and Super 8 footage, is intermixed with receipts for materials, heavily zoomed security video stills, drone footage of the city, architectural maps and sketches by the team while planning. This use of documentation allows the reader or viewer to “see DMYCC develop from a contaminated space with non-functioning utilities into one treated with dust control chemicals to improve air quality, a working draining system, primed walls, repaired electricity lines and meticulously considered lighting systems.” 

Across the book there is little to no text, allowing the gradual growth of the space through photography to tell the story. “Through the quiet, disciplined nature of their renovation work, Sean and his friends deconstruct the distinctions between sanctioned municipal overhauls and more informal ones,” explains Loose Joints. “Sean takes these gestures of their logical extremes, in which physical boundaries and barriers are strategically undone and each forensically documented. These documents are sympathetic yet crucial, positing the city an an unknowing collaborator.” 

The images taken across the DMYCC project have now been brought from its home in Manhattan to London, in a new exhibition at Roaming Projects, the photographer’s first in the UK, on until 7 January 2018. 

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC

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Sean Vegezzi: DMYCC