This week, I am delighted to share with you images from one of my current projects: Myanmar Photo Archive. Though most ethnographic museums display photographs of colonial Burma from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, photographic history after independence in 1948 is largely unrecorded. Since Myanmar (Burma) has been under strict military rule for the past 60 years, limited information flowed in and out of the country, especially about the lives of its people. Most visual representations from this period have therefore been limited to golden temples and images of Aung San Suu Kyi. So in 2014 I created the Myanmar Photo Archive to change this, and set out to find personal photographic records showing the facets of Burmese life from these lost decades.
Having worked on projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (#afghanboxcamera), I used a similar approach and started my research by seeking out the sources of image-making: photo studio owners. Sadly, I found out very quickly that the generation of analog photographers had already made way for the younger generation and only a select few remained to give me any information on the past. I then turned to secondhand dealers who collected items discarded by uprooted families or defunct studios and, on my first trip alone, I gathered roughly 10,000 images, several photo albums, and other photographic objects. This week, you’ll see a selection of these images, the stories behind them, and the historical info gathered with the help of my collaborator, Nathalie Johnston @myanmart, who founded the Myanmar Art Resource Center & Archive (MARCA) in Yangon.