An Interview with Yimmy Yayo
You may not recognize the name James W.M. Bailey, but chances are you've encountered his work. Bailey consciously keeps a low profile online, and is better known as Yimmy Yayo, the original handle for his renowned, cult-followed Tumblr account. However, Yimmy Yayo's influence extends much further than his Tumblr platform, as he also has a significant and impressive presence as a graphic designer, photographer, and creative director at large. With an expansive portfolio that includes consulting for the likes of Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, the XX, LVMH, and Vice, Bailey has brought his distinctive and defined tastes and sensibilities to a broad range of artistic realms. With incisive answers that range from the design genius of the croc to the temperaments of modernity, it was a pleasure getting a chance to talk with one of the great minds working in cultural production today.
Hey James how’s it going? What are you working on at the moment?
I've just spent 3 months working on my new USA Visa.
What are the origins of the name Yimmy Yayo?
James turned into Jimmy turned into Yimmy. Not sure where the Yayo came from but it seems to have stuck. It's mostly just Yayo now I think, or James if you know me well :)
Why have you chosen to live in relative anonymity (at least from a personal standpoint) on the internet?
I feel that there's an overwhelming obligation to share too much online, also I'm pretty boring, if I shared everything people would get bored pretty quickly. I think people enjoy characters more than other people. I also just look stupid in photographs.
Something we’ve been talking a lot about at the shop is how we consume information and images. How do you think the shift from Tumblr being the preeminent platform to Instagram being the preeminent platform is affecting how we process images? One thing we’ve been discussing a lot is how Tumblr is centered on reblogs, and Instagram is predicated on original content and likes.
Well I guess tumblr really came around after FFFFound, which was the first image collecting tool, tumblr used that momentum to essentially share what was being stored, while some people used it for personal purposes, mostly it was just a visual ouroboros which was fun and cool. The difference is now that Instagram is so direct it's essentially the blend of say Tumblr and Facebook, where it's personal but a conscious stream. I try not to take either of them too seriously though. I think the big change was from desktop to handheld, tumblr does have a pretty good mobile platform, Instagram was the one to really blow it up.
"I feel that there's an overwhelming obligation to share too much online"
What is your relationship to politics, and does it influence your work?
I hate politics, I hate most institutions that are put in place to control people. Yes there are some benefits if done right, but the world is in a shit storm right now and I hate this 'far-right-rebirth'. But in saying that you have to stay informed, so you know what's happening in the world. I don't let it affect my work too much, only when it can be used against itself, like design that makes fun of the monarchy or Trump etc.
Who are some of your favourite photographers, contemporary or historical?
There are so many depending on my mood; Araki and Daido, Rankin, Snowden, Brassai, Sugimoto. I prefer classicist photographers as opposed to anything incredibly overt and gratuitous like LaChappelle etc. But there are so many I can't list them all.
What are your top 3 favourite products of all time?
Vegemite, crocs and the hooded pullover.
What was it like working with someone as high profile as Gucci Mane? Is your process and approach different when it comes to working with either an individual or industry like rap that garners so much publicity?
He was actually in Jail, while we were working on Delantic. I mostly dealt with my guy Marc Kalman, Tood Moscowitz and Austen Rosen who put the project together. But it was pretty cool having to have my pitch and design documents printed out so they could be taken into inmate visitation areas.
"He was actually in Jail, while we were working on Delantic."
If you could work with anybody, who would it be?
Rihanna was a big one I got to check off the list, I would love to get into the creative side of an NBA franchise, sounds weird but that would be the culmination of playing for so many years myself and then the creative work.
What do you find interesting and inspiring in 2017?
Humility, restraint and quiet confidence. There's so much talk these days, I'm inspired by those that quietly go about their work, instead of gratuitous self promotion or walking around with a loudspeaker talking about how good they are, especially when their work is not that good ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
interview: Aaron Gray
imagery: Jenny Choi
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