I’ve enjoyed travelling around Myanmar over the last few years.
I first visited in 2013 for the Yangon Photo Festival where I met an array of talented artists and photographers from the region. Then in 2017, I took a long trek through the Myanmar midlands and spent time with a friend in Yangon who was tracing his family history. Both times I put down the video camera and allowed myself to take stills again.
SHOOTING STILLS – NOT VIDEO
When I shoot video and cutaways (or ‘b roll) I think about the sequence. The edit. The different ways the shot can work. How the shot will be used. Who might be using it. How it might be graded. Not to mention the framing, the light, the content, who’s looking at me, is it safe etc etc. When i’m shooting stills, all of that fades away and I get to concentrate on shooting something that can stand alone.
There’s lots online about the mysticism of Myanmar, the pagodas and the atmosphere. But it’s really about the people. The hill tribe peoples around Hspipaw and Kalaw remind me a lot of my own people in the North-East of India. The similarity in customs and attitudes, the food and the obsession with chewing betel nut (and paan) and spitting red everywhere was strangely comforting.
The ‘Kalaw Roadman’ was one of my favourite portraits i’d taken in a long time. He allowed me to take quite a few pics of him and was really playful with the camera. In another world I would have got my documentary hat on and interviewed him.
Another of my favourite portraits I took was ‘C’est a moi que to parles?’ (Are you talking to me?’) He gave me a ‘don’t fuck about look’ as I walked through his hill village. But it followed with nod of solid approval at my camera, so i knew I was good to take a picture.
The teeshirt worn by the lady in ‘Kalaw x Krakow’ is still to this day one of my favourite tees i’ve seen across Asia. It’s such a graphical tee and I was not expecting to promote Polish tourism when taking her portrait.
I took a lot more portraiture in Myanmar over the trip and it was probably this journey where I realized how much I enjoy portraiture above other types of photography. It is probably something to do with shooting so many cutaways and working so much in documentary that the brief connection I build with people when I ‘make’ a photo is satisfying and enjoyable.