A Centrefold Premiere In The Guardian

On the day the Burmese regime finally announce the long expected prisoner amnesty, the Guardian newspaper pull out all the stops and go big for a double page centre spread on the former political prisoners from this project that is now better known as the book ‘Abhaya – Burma’s Fearlessness’. There is also a beautiful online slideshow gallery that can be viewed on the Guardian website with a premiere showing of the Lady’s portrait and others from inside Burma including U Tin Oo and Dr Daw May Win Myint.

See the full size article here – Guardian Eyewitness: Abhaya Burma’s Fearlessness

Today is also the day that the book gets launched at the Frankfurt book-fair. It’s been a busy day all round but nothing has been achieved yet. Here’s hoping that later on today there will be good news and we can finally start celebrating the release of political prisoners… and everything else as well.

Burma’s Political Prisoners book: ‘Abhaya – Burma’s Fearlessness’ with foreword by Aung San Suu Kyi

After 3 long years of  hard work and over 100,000 miles travelled, finally the book of our long term project documenting Burma’s political prisoners will be published in November 2011 by River Books. Hopefully all political prisoners will also be released by then as well.

Featuring a foreword written by Aung San Suu Kyi and portraits of more than 250 former political prisoners in exile around the world (as well as over 50 from inside Burma, including leaders of the National League for Democracy), ‘Abhaya – Burma’s Fearlessness’ captures a moment in time in Burma’s history, dated October 2011, with more than 2,000 political prisoners incarcerated.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The Abhaya mudrā (“mudrā of fear-not”) represents protection, peace and the dispelling of fear.

In 1962 a military coup lead by General Ne Win saw Burma, an isolated Buddhist country in South-East Asia, come under the power of one of the world’s most brutal regimes. For the past five decades, thousands of people have been arrested, tortured and given long prison sentences for openly expressing their beliefs and for daring to defy dictators who tolerate no form of dissent or opposition to their rule.

Today, more than 2,000 political prisoners including monks, students, journalists, lawyers, elected Members of Parliament and over 300 members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party, The National League for Democracy, are incarcerated in Burma’s notorious prisons.

In Burma and across the world, almost 300 hundred former political prisoners have come together to raise awareness of the tragic plight of their colleagues still detained in jail. Photographed standing with their right hand raised, palm out-turned facing the camera, the name of a current political prisoner is shown written on their hand. The sacred Buddhist gesture of Abhaya, “Fear Not”, is not only an act of silent protest, but also one of remembrance and fearlessness.

“The people featured in this book have all had to learn to face their fears squarely during the decades they have passed in the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. Their commitment has been their courage. It is important that they and what they stand for should not be forgotten, that their sufferings as well as their aspirations should be remembered.”

“I hope that all who read this book will be encouraged to do everything they can to gain the freedom of political prisoners in Burma and to create a world where there are no political prisoners” Aung San Suu Kyi

View the project in its entirety at www.enigmaimages.net

 

 

Burma Selected for OSI Moving Walls 19

The Open Society Institute has selected my long term project for Burma’s political prisoners ‘Even Though I’m Free I Am Not‘ to be part of the prestigious Moving Walls exhibition programme. The exhibition opens in New York with a reception on November 30th and lasts for 9 months before moving to Washington DC for a further 9 months. With 400 applications submitted, being selected as one of seven photographers to be part of this programme is humbling to say the least. Also with my work being shown in the main reception area, it’s a massive honour for me and for everyone involved in this work over the past 3 years and is of course very exciting, but most importantly it gives the issue of Burma’s political prisoners another platform and hopefully valuable exposure –  there will be an exclusive first showing of a number of former political prisoners from inside Burma who we have been waiting for the right time to show to the world. This is that time.

CLICK HERE for full details on the OSI website

This is without doubt one of the biggest recognitions possible for this work. To me it’s like winning an ‘Oscar’ especially when I look at all the names of those whose work has been chosen for this exhibition programme since it’s inception in 1998 including the likes of Tim Hetherington, Marcus Bleasdale, Eugene Richards, Steve McCurry, Larry Towell, Lynsey Addario, Stefano de Luigi, Ami Vitale, Ed Kashi… the list is endless. It’s astonishing and I am totally humbled. From the OSI website:

‘Moving Walls represents the transitional condition of open societies and the promotion and maintenance of democratic values. It recognises the brave and difficult work that photographers undertake globally in their documentation of complex social and political issues. Their images provide the world with human rights evidence, put faces onto a conflict, document the struggles and defiance of marginalized people, reframe how issues are discussed publicly, and provide opportunities for reflection and discussion. Through Moving Walls, the Open Society Foundations honor this work while visually highlighting the mission of our foundation to staff and visitors.’

PX3 People’s Choice Awards Double Win

More good news from this years PX3 Prix de la Photographie Awards with a double win in the People’s Choice Awards. So a big thank you to all the people out there who voted for the Lady and Tun Lin Kyaw, her former bodyguard.

Platon, Portraits And Power To The People

Time stood still in November last year as for many the moment they never thought they’d see actually happened as Aung San Suu Kyi walked free. Some weeks later Time stood still again for another moment deemed never to re-occur as the Lady returned to grace the magazine once more. Last night saw internationally renowned portrait photographer Platon and the person who took ‘that’ cover shot present a slideshow of his work to promote his new book “Power” at LSE in London. Interestingly also having begun his career at Central St Martins in London he went on to RCA (that’s where the similarities end for now as I was rejected twice!) and over a 20+ year career has photographed a plethora of celebrities and world leaders often in his unique and renowned style. Wide angled lenses right up close an inch and a half from the face of Gaddafi and Mugabe, like it or not, his work is different, engaging and at times incredibly powerful.

Platon’s cover shot of the Lady on show at his talk in London

But it was often the stories behind the image that proved more compelling as he recounted tales from the Kremlin to the White House in a self depreciating and humourous fashion. Interestingly when you consider all of the people he has photographed, from Obama to Pacino, the only person who he was not permitted to discuss at all was his shoot with David Beckham. Four non-disclosure contracts he was forced to sign saw to that. Licence to roam between facts and fantasy is the right of the storyteller and likewise the right to pass judgement on any alleged ego or self importance that anyone may show in so doing is up to those who choose to look and listen. It is too easy to slate someone in the public eye or in a position like Platon’s for having an ego, however big or small one might think it is or however right or wrong one may be in thinking so either through fact or jealousy. But there are many in this world be they photographers, celebrities, politicians or ordinary people who have their own agendas and are at times deluded by grandeur – I’ve been accused of having an ego for not telling people who I really am or for not showing my face. At times it often seems there’s just no pleasing anyone. I’m not interested in passing judgement publicly on anyone’s character and whilst his trip inside Burma and the resulting frantic car chase may at times seem a little OTT at least he went there (and wants to go back) and it was superb to see him dedicate a large section of his talk to his work with Human Rights Watch on the Thai-Burma border as well as his visit inside to meet with the Lady. An audience who perhaps had come to see the power of Clinton or the beauty of Monica Bellucci were instead stunned into further silence at the horrors of Burma. I got the chance to catch up with him after the event and we chatted about Burma, the Lady and working inside the country amongst other things. He was genuinely deeply humbled by the work that undercover VJs do inside the country and all those whom he had met on the Thai-Burma border. On a personal note it was great to meet him due to a mutual relevance in the work he has recently done for Burma and so many of the people he has met and photographed. He told me something that cast aside any self-doubts I ever had and means more to me than he could ever know (for those thinking my alleged ego is creeping back into the room it was not him saying how much he admired my work or how brilliant it was. Nothing like that. Rather it was something that others had said to him about it). An invitation to meet up with him in New York at the end of the year was laid on the table and that is an opportunity I hope might happen. Who knows, I might finally learn to use lighting.

The Lady and the Lectures

This year’s BBC Reith Lectures on the subject “Securing Freedom” feature the world’s most famous former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. Having clandestinely recorded the lecture’s at her lakeside home in Rangoon, the recordings were played back to a specially invited audience at the BBC World Service in London to enable audience participation and debate with the Lady via a phone link back into Burma. We were invited to attend both lectures and the first one has now been broadcast on the BBC World Service and you can listen to it via the link below:

Securing Freedom “Liberty” by Aung San Suu Kyi

Read the transcript here

In the opening section as Daw Suu starts talking about U Win Tin and Dr Daw May Win Myint and then go on to discuss Generation Wave, my mind immediately drifted back to them and other colleagues and close friends that I’ve come to know over the years inside the country. The second lecture and debate with The Lady took place last night and with an evening slot (after midnight in Burma) a bigger audience was able to enjoy the occasion. Both lectures were packed with an audience filled with leading human rights campaigners, NGO’s and academics as well as family members with whom we were attending. Questions often varied from the sublime to the ridiculous and at times left Sue Lawley tongue-tied, but the participation of the Lady was a joy to behold and even through an often fading phone line, it was as though she as there in the room with us. Perhaps most poignant moment in the evening was when Lord Steel reminded the world to the other side of the struggle for freedom and that of personal loss and questioning if sacrifice can be too high a price to pay in the end. Daw Suu talked boldly of the NLD’s continued growth and stature in the country in spite of everything the junta have thrown at them and perhaps it was this side to the discussions that were most telling. The youth have a role to play, one that is even more important than that of the international community. Did we learn anything new? Well if nothing else, then her spirit and that of her party is stronger than ever should anyone be left with any doubts.

The second lecture will be broadcast on Tuesday 5th July. In the meantime you can listen to Jacqueline San (campaigner at the Burma Campaign UK and also the other half of most of the work you see on this website) as she was interviewed on BBC World Service discussing the first Reith Lecture along with other dissidents from across the world:

RFA Interview and the PX3 Victory for Burma

Nice to chat with my friends from RFA again – especially having just been there last week in the DC headquarters and even more so to Ma Ingjin (wife of my friend Ko Thar Nyunt Oo who works at VOA). Thanks for the interview and article on my work.

Read the article here online on the Radio Free Asia website

Listen to the audio interview below – click play on the audioplayer

Mizzima Article on Meeting The Lady

Interview with Jim Andrews for an online interview on the Mizzima website about both the PX3 awards for my recent work on Burma and also about meeting The Lady.

You can read the full article online at the Mizzima website

Burma Wins Big at the PX3 Prix de la Photographie Awards

One of the biggest and most prestigious photography awards in Europe, the “PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris” have announced the winners in the annual event that celebrates a huge spectrum of photography from Photojournalism to Fine Art. With thousands of entrants from 85 countries including many of the world’s top photographers from agencies such as Panos Pictures and VII it is extremely pleasing and also humbling to win four awards – two golds, one silver and one bronze and an honourable mention – all for recent work in Burma and on the Thai-Burma border.

The winning images and photo-stories are as follows:

Aung San Suu Kyi: At Home With Burma’s Hope“:
Gold in Photojournalism (People)
Silver in Photojournalism (Political)
Honourable Mention in Portraiture

Burma’s democracy icon, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, photographed at home at 54 University Avenue

The Prison Without Bars“:
Gold in Photojournalism (Political)

From the refugee camps scattered along the border with Burma to the safe houses of Mae Sot to those who have been resettled to third countries, the daily lives of Burma’s former political prisoners are documented as they continue their fight in the struggle to bring democracy to Burma as well as their own personal fight for freedom.

Burma’s Defiance: Bo Kyi
Bronze in Photojournalism (Political)

“Burma’s Defiance” an ongoing long term project both inside Burma as well as in exile, documenting dissidents and human rights defenders still leading the fight against the ruling military regime in spite of threats and harassment from the authorities in the quest to bring freedom to their country.

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It is a huge honour to win these awards but most importantly it gives an audience and a platform to the subject matter and the issues concerned. This is the reason why as photographers so many of us take these pictures and follow these stories – personal satisfaction in the process and challenge of learning, helping and making a difference. Awards are due not to me but to the people in my pictures due to the struggles they have had to endure. My thanks, of course go to each and every one of them.

Aung San Suu Kyi, U2 and You Too…

A beautiful video message from The Lady to U2 fans.. and you too. It’s great to see hard work and secret planning pay off with a brilliant result…

“We are not bystanders in our own history. Everyone of us writes a story that is told”

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