About Nick Mayo

I first landed in East Asia, Bangkok to be precise, on vacation aged 22.  My then employer had assigned me to Saudi Arabia a year earlier and I badly needed a break.  My initial sensations on arriving in Thailand were of sensory overload; the culture, the people, even the weather seemed extraordinary after the austere environment in which I'd been living.  I knew then I needed to move to Asia and I started making plans to do so.  Fast forward 2 1/2 years and I was back, this time based in Taiwan.

It wasn't until the late '90s that I had the time, and freedom, to start travelling to remoter areas.  Things were changing. China was opening up areas previously closed, a greater variety of Himalayan treks was becoming possible and visas were easier to obtain everywhere.  By then I was organizing regular road trips for friends to rural areas of western China.  We'd charter a bus, pick a destination pretty much at random and then head off down back roads with a rudimentary map and a lot of optimism.  The trips weren't without incident.  Four Tibetan bandits were nonplussed to find a busload of 16 Taiwanese and westerners with one very nervous Chinese driver when they held us up on an obscure dirt track east of Zoige in the summer of 1999.  Occasional untoward adventures notwithstanding, one thing I learnt from these trips was that much, in fact most, of rural China (and, by extension, other Asian countries) was (and is) virtually unvisited.

A second epiphany came a couple of years later.  I'd been travelling through Yunnan without seeing much of anything special when in a cafe in Dali I came across Jim Goodman's marvellous book, The Exploration Of Yunnan. I'd outgrown regular guidebooks by then but here suddenly was a beautifully researched account and photographs of the history, geography and, for me most importantly, cultures of the province.  I subsequently went to visit Jim at his base in Chiang Mai where he generously shared his experiences and working methods with me.  The rest has followed on from there.

I try to travel 6 - 7 months a year with most of the rest of the time working on the photographs I've taken or researching future trips.  I'm often asked if with Asia's breakneck economic development there are areas and people where traditional lifestyles prevail.  My answer is a thundering "yes" and I hope my photographs show this.  Sure, inappropriate trekking practices in northern Thailand have had a negative impact on both the people and their traditional culture and one's not going to find information on animal day market schedules in the pages of Lonely Planet but there are huge areas, even regions, where few if any photographers venture.  However, it’s only by making repeated visits to these areas that one can make the contacts to find out about the festivals and events that each ethnic group uniquely holds.

My objective is to document as many of the unique environments, cultures and architectures of remote Asia as I am able. My work is published in magazines, used for promotional activities of ethnic festivals and I contribute to the Asian Studies libraries of a number of universities.  I also exhibit regularly.  Commercially I am represented by Getty Images. The photographs on the site date from mid-2006 when I first went digital.  Before 2006 I used film and scans of the images I took then have been posted elsewhere on the web.

I use Nikon equipment and have reached the limit of what I can carry. More lenses and a heavier tripod would be nice but there's only so much I can hump over a 5,500m Himalayan pass.  I often have to contend with elements that adversely affect photography, particularly poor light.  Unlike in other forms of photography I have no control over these and it can make for challenging circumstances.  The sun does sometimes shine on festivals in Guizhou.  But not very often. 

From 2013 onwards I have spent less time in China and more elsewhere, particularly in India, Vietnam, Laos & Burma.  I also have plans for a first trip to western Mongolia and, if I can find a practical way to do it, to spend time in the Central Asian states.

I hope this site will be of value both to those with a general interest in remote Asia as well as a resource for specialists looking for visual documentation and other information on Asia's unique cultures and places.  Any and all feedback will be welcomed.      

July 2014