The Strong Sense of Belonging in New Zealand’s Coastal Inhabitants

Tracing a visual compendium of the post-industrial heritage along the coastline of New Zealand’s South Island, Jake Mein reflects upon how a community and its relationship to the land can create and shape identity.


Ashes focuses on a small town on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island that has recently gone through an industrial change and an ecological shift. Treating this town as a case study for wider symbolism of fractured communities, I’m interested in the effect globalisation has had on industries firstly on a local level, but also, as with my previous work, on how identity is formed through place.

Having such a prosperous yet reliant relationship to finite materials binds one to the land, to the area, and to the vocation. This commitment therefore forges identity over time. Ashes asks the question of how identity can be shaped and what different factors have in creating identity. The focus being a collective attachment to a localised and now defunct industry. Is this lost when the physicality of place is removed? How does this supposed fracture present itself?

This brutal landscape seems unperturbed by a change that was so obviously impacting those who inhabit the area. Why in such remote places does a sense of self seem more amplified? The link of stoicism between land and individual is something that only exists in these areas - the people reflect the area in such a way that it arcs back again to their overall identity.

This work was produced in the scope of PARALLEL European Photo Based Platform.

Words and Pictures by .







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Jake Mein is a visual artist based in Wellington, New Zealand. His work explores a sense of belonging, home, and the deterioration of those familiar places. His recent work has looked at his hometown of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake which destroyed the city. Mein’s project Six for Gold was recently published by independent Australasian publisher Bad News Books. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.

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This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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