OSI Moving Walls 19 – Burma’s Fearlessness in NYC

A great week back in the big apple and saw the Moving Walls 19 opening reception being held in great style at the Open Society Foundations headquarters in New York City. The work ha sheen well received and looks great on the walls at OSF and its great to be partnered with them now to promote this issue even further. Below is a short clip of the opening night and some images of the installation. Thanks to all at OSF in the Documentary Photography Project and the Burma Project – here’s to the future.

Abhaya Burma’s Fearlessness – Bangkok Exhibition

Last week saw the opening of the exhibition and also the official book launch, held at the beautiful Serindia Gallery in Bangkok in association with River Books and the Canadian Embassy. Unfortunately we could not be there as we are in New York for the opening of the OSI moving Walls 19 exhibition, but by all accounts it was a great evening and a successful one too, in that no fewer than 8 Ambassadors attended the event along with various other diplomats and movers and shakers. The idea of course is to drum home the issue that 1700 still remain in jail and must be freed if Burma is to truly move forward. With these kind of people attending the event and taking copies of the book then hopefully that message can continue to resonate in the halls of power and the risks that some have taken to be in this work do not go unheeded.

Here are a couple of reviews of the evening courtesy of The Irrawaddy team and RFA who filmed the two short pieces below and also a review in The Nation. Thanks to the Irrawaddy team, RFA, U Zin Linn and Soe Aung and of course to Shane and his staff at Serindia, Narisa and to Mr Ron Hoffman the Canadian Ambassador.

‘Birmans en Dissidence’ – Le Monde

A first for France as this saturday’s ‘Le Portfolio’ section in ‘Le Magazine du Monde’ features an 8 page article previewing the book and the issue of Burma’s political prisoners.

Click this link to read the full article – Birmans en Dissidence

Lady Liberty

They say things come in threes. Today must be one of those days as ‘Lady Liberty’ kicks off the day with a front cover of the Bangkok Post’s ‘The Magazine’ with an accompanying 4 page article inside. Whilst the article is taken from my meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi soon after her release from house arrest at the start of the year and is therefore somewhat dated and not exactly bringing anything new to the table, it’s at least a nice chance for the photos to get another print run if nothing else. It’s also the first start of a busy day with the exhibition and book launch happening later this evening at the Serindia Gallery in Bangkok. I hope you can all make it there to enjoy the event, photos, book, wine! Full report on the exhibition opening and book launch will be posted later today…

Read the full article here – Bangkok Post The Magazine ‘Lady Liberty’

‘Portraits of Fearlessness’ The Bangkok Post

With the exhibition and book launch tomorrow evening (Thursday 24th) at the Serindia Gallery, the Bangkok Post ‘Life’ section features a cover feature of ‘Abhaya’ plus an interview with gallery owner Shane Suvikapakornul.

Read the full article here – Portraits of Fearlessness

Faces Without Fear

A nervous wait has thankfully ended, as not only did the floods keep books from getting in to the hands of those who have ‘roles to play’, so to speak, but also from the hands of those passing judgement. On the eve of the book launch and exhibition opening in Bangkok tomorrow at Serindia Gallery, the first review can be read here online at the Irrawaddy. Thanks to David and everyone at Irrawaddy for a great review and it’s pleasing to see my hopes for the book be understood and recognised. There’s bound to be some who have more critical viewpoints, but I welcome those thoughts with open arms too!

Philip Jones Griffiths. An Inspiration.

An inspiration to many, Philip Jones Griffiths was one of the most highly regarded photojournalists in the world. “Not since Goya has anyone portrayed war like Philip Jones Griffiths” said Henri Cartier Bresson of the man who joined Magnum in 1966 before going on to be its’ President for an unprecedented 5 years. His work on the Vietnam war and subsequent book, Vietnam Inc., crystallized public opinion and gave form to Western misgivings about American involvement in Vietnam. One of the most detailed surveys of any conflict, Vietnam Inc. is also an in-depth document of Vietnamese culture under attack. Griffiths’ assignments, often self-engineered, took him to more than 120 countries. He continued to work for major publications such as Life and Geo on stories such as Buddhism in Cambodia, droughts in India, poverty in Texas, the re-greening of Vietnam, and the legacy of the Gulf War in Kuwait. His continued revisiting of Vietnam, examining the legacy of the war, lead to his two further books ‘Agent Orange’ and ‘Vietnam at Peace’. Griffiths’ work reflects on the unequal relationship between technology and humanity, summed up in his book Dark Odyssey. Human foolishness always attracted Griffiths’ eye, but, faithful to the ethics of the Magnum founders, he believed in human dignity and in the capacity for improvement.

I was privileged enough to have the chance to meet him after a talk he had given in London in 2007 where I was studying, and then even more so to have the opportunity to share a moment discussing Vietnam and parallels with its close neighbour, Burma. If there are moments in life that shape your thoughts and desires to follow a certain path then this brief meeting was most certainly that moment for me. It is the unquenchable thirst to uncover the truth and challenge what we are told or told to believe that is borne in Philip Jones Griffiths work like no other, as well as in the man himself, and provided me with the inspiration to start my involvement in Burma. That may well be where the parallels end, but to be inspired is often enough to at least try. He unfortunately passed away in March 2008 but his work will last many lifetimes more.

Burma : Land of Shadows by Chien-Chi Chang

Esteemed Magnum photographer Chien-Chi Chang and his essay on Burma: Land of Shadows. I first caught a glimpse of him when his incredible work ‘The Chain’ about mental patients at an asylum in Taiwan was on show – get hold of a copy of the book if you get a chance, it’s superb.

Click link to view Burma: Land of Shadows

Power Through A Lens – Interview with DVB

With rumours of the latest prisoner amnesty circulating like wildfire once more and the book getting its first airing in public (full details and photos to follow very soon I hope!) here’s a recent interview with Francis Wade from DVB about political prisoners and photographing in the pariah state:

Click to read the interview – Power Through A Lens

Portrait of The Lady – VOGUE UK

One year on from her release from house arrest and The Lady once more appears across the pages of VOGUE magazine with her own indomitable style and grace. At the start of the year we had an appearance in VOGUE Japan but this time it’s the turn of VOGUE UK, and the December issue out now, that my picture of Aung San Suu Kyi and Tai-Chi-Toe feature in accompanying an article written by Rebecca Frayn (screenwriter) about the forthcoming Luc Besson film “The Lady”. Back in September, Jackie and I were kindly invited to a private screening of the film with a few other close friends and with mixed emotions and opinions I think regardless of what criticism it may draw, the film will be enjoyed by many, especially amongst Burmese who rightly so hold such affection for the revered Lady of Burma. It is an almost impossible task to try to tell even a small part of the story of Aung San Suu Kyi’s life and heroic struggle at all , let alone in under two hours. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the film currently comes in at at near to 2:20 (but is being cut) and although long and at times liberal with its historic detail, in no doubt at times a necessity to appeal to the great unthinking masses, it has its moments of emotion that hit home despite some rather ordinary acting and often trying storytelling. A story that is packed with heart wrenching emotion and drama I felt was unfortunately often not transferred to the silver screen. David Thewlis is superb as Dr Michael Aris and Michelle Yeoh gives a fine performance as The Lady, but despite what I felt the film lacked in its storytelling and sense of drama, some of the scenes and sets are superb, especially the replica house at 54 University Avenue. For those of us fortunate enough to be close enough to Burma and its history, we are of course the hardest critics to please if one focuses solely on history and detail within the film. Accepting that it is ‘based on a true-story’ one has to look past ones own personal knowledge, thoughts and beliefs and see it for the film that it is, if not the film that one may want it to be. Anyway, my thoughts and rambling ones at that and I truly hope that the film is enjoyed and receives the plaudits it deserves for trying alone where no-one else has dared try before.

Read the article  here – Portrait of the Lady

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