Faces and smiles of Myanmar

Poverty, malnutrition and bad hygiene are very apparent as your walk through the streets of Yangon – the result of the country’s mismanagement and years in isolation.  The words of a Myanmar university professor who we met during our trip, described it perfectly – “In the past, Myanmar people were scared to dream of the future. They would close their eyes and all they saw was nightmares. For the first time in years, they are now able to dream of change – a better tomorrow for themselves and their children”. Simply looking at the smiles on the childrens faces this is indeed very apparent.

Part of our tour included a boat ride across the Yangon river, so just before noon we arrived at the ferry terminal. The picture above is of 3 out of many children that greeted us outside the terminal, who were really eager to be photographed. Clearly their motive was money but admittedly their emotions seemed genuine. After posing for what seemed like 100 photographs, they each revealed a set of 10 postcards that they were selling for 2000 kyats (about 2 euros). One must admire the business sense of these kids, as there was no way for me to deny giving up that money; not just for the postcards, but in return for all the pictures I managed to take of them.

Shot with my Canon 60D and my Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens at F2.8, 1/1000 sec at ISO 200.


The emotional element of photography

They say that there is an emotional element to photography, and that photographs can sometimes instill deep emotions to both photographer and viewers alike. The picture in my post today definitely falls into that category – at least for the way I felt while capturing this scene on the ferry across the Yangon river.

For someone looking at this photograph, the first feelings would be those of sadness, hopelessness and desperation for both mother and child. For me as the photographer however, there was also another feeling – that of guilt. On the back of my mind I felt that I was taking advantage of the situation for my own selfish benefit of taking a “good” picture. Then again hundreds of pictures are posted each day of children starving in Africa, war amputees, survivors of natural disasters. It was definitely the first time I have ever felt that way taking a picture, but looking back, my feelings of guilt are somewhat relieved by the fact that I can share this picture with the few readers of my blog and help raise awareness of the poverty and misfortune that people in less developed countries have to endure. Pictures like these should make us all appreciate being who we are and being content for what we have.

Shot with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L at ISO 100, F2.8, 1/60 sec.

Myanmar – A country at a crossroad

I consider myself very fortunate in my lifetime so far, as I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of countries around the world and experience cultures, history and ways of life much different than those of my home country. Although I had recently visited other Asian countries, nothing could have prepared me for the last 10 days I spent in Myanmar (Burma).

Myanmar – a country of 60 million people – is in the midst of a remarkable transformation. Since 2010 it has started loosening its protectionist measures, moving from a command to a market driven economy and commencing the long journey from a military dictatorship to a democracy. Its people for the first time can look forward to a better quality of life, filled with the simple things that we in developed countries take for granted.

From a timing perspective, my visit could not have been planned any better, as I got to witness a country at a crossroad – slowly taking baby steps to opening up, while foreign mega-giant companies are waiting impatiently to jump in and enjoy the spoils. I am certain that in the next 5 years, this country will undergo a radical transformation of the magnitude witnessed by China and India in the past few decades.

I was fortunate to join a team of consultants to travel to Myanmar to assist a company in better preparing itself to face the challenges of what is about to come. During the weekend, our client arranged a tour of Yangon as well as the outskirts of the city. I can say without a doubt, that this was the first time I ever had the chance to take a genuine behind-the-scenes look of  a country’s culture and way of life. Needless to say that my camera got more use in the last two weeks than it did in the last year! Everywhere I looked, there was a picture ready to be taken. Some of these pictures I want to share through this blog, so there will definitely be a couple more postings to come!

This first picture was taken on the Yangon Circular Railway, which as the name implies, loops around the city and its suburbs. We got the chance to ride the train for a whole hour on our way from the city center to the statue of the Reclining Buddha. The ride itself was an experience, with people carrying eveything with them on board – from sacks of food to even their own mattress!

Taken with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 IS lens at F5.6, 1/400 sec at ISO 400.

Train ride - fixed2 - 1920c