Breaking free from the chains: The long road starts here.

Whilst the concept for this project may now be finalised, nothing is going to happen until it’s been fully discussed with the very people who its about and more importantly for… the political prisoners themselves. The single most important part of this whole project is to have their permission, call it blessing if you want, to be able to do this. Without their full understanding about what I want to do and what I hope to achieve with this project then nothing can happen. This is for them. This is to raise awareness, to tell the whole world what’s going on and to ensure that this changes things. Nothing more. Nothing less.

As soon as I got off the bus from Chiang Mai, naturally the first person I had to tell about it all was my girlfriend. Her support and belief is the foundation to everything I try to do for her country. It adds another dimension to everything I see and to everything I do for Burma. It makes everything so much more personal, and when one has a personal connection to one’s subject, the resulting work takes on such greater meaning. She was a student in 1996, sitting in the road at Hledan junction, like so many others with her and like so many others before her… refusing to accept what the military regime were trying to impose… no matter what the consequences… no matter what price they had to pay… it’s their beliefs that we now have to honour. If ever I had any doubt and needed this whole project confirmed to me as being the right thing to do, the three simple words she wrote in response to me explaining it to her did more than anything else ever could and ever will… “I’m very proud”.

The first port of call to contact former political prisoners to discuss this whole project and hopefully move forward with it was with my friends at AAPP. Both Ko Bo Kyi and Ko Tate Naing were away in Chaing Mai – we must have passed en route – so it was thanks to the ever understanding belief of Ko Aung Kyaw Oo whom I first explained the whole idea to in full. He loved the idea. I felt sure that whilst it can be understood as an overview in discussion, the real impact and potential can only be felt when taking and then seeing the pictures themselves. We agreed to arrange a photoshoot with all of the staff in the office when Ko Bo Kyi was back and they had all had a chance to discuss what I was proposing. So on a typically hot sweltering day we got underway at the AAPP office and set about photographing the ten members of the AAPP who were there |(in no particular order): Bo Kyi, Aung Kyaw Oo, Htay Aung, Eibar, Thet Oo, Thargyi, Min Min, Aung Myo Thein, Khin Cho Myint, Wai Moe.

It was great, everyone had fun and whilst some of the photos were not perfect, the main idea was to get them down as tests so the idea can develop and I have something concrete to work with. But most importantly I sensed that they all believed in this idea and shared my hopes about what we might be able to achieve. Only time will tell if we do.

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