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.
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.
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
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’
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
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!
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
At the weekend we managed to get our hands on an advance copy of the book and here are is a sneak preview of a few pages, including from inside Burma, to give you some idea of what’s inside… 224 pages, 244 portraits and background information, foreword by Aung San Suu Kyi, statements from AAPP and Human Rights Watch… and available for pre-order now on Amazon before it’s worldwide release in 3 weeks time. I think what I’m really looking forward to most is reaction and reviews – whether good or bad, it will just be good to finally see the work out there for all to make up their own mind.
Next stop London, New York and Bangkok, but will they all be released before the book? Here’s hoping so…
CNN anchor, Kristie Lu Stout, presents a slideshow of ‘Abhaya – Burma’s Fearlessness’ on the primetime daily show, News Stream, on the day that 227 political prisoners were released from jail in Burma. Topping the headline news makes a welcome change for Burma and one we could relish as well with our work on display to millions across the world enjoying their breakfast in America, afternoon tea in the UK or evening noodles in Asia. The early morning call from Hong Kong lead to a crazy day dashing across London as slowly, one by one, political prisoners were being released. Being stuck in Europe on this of all days was not ideal considering the time difference and logistical difficulties trying to get updates using Skype and G-talk whilst constantly on the move, but luckily I managed to find a quiet room at Getty Images to do the voice over that took more attempts at trying to get a clear line than it does when trying to call into Burma. A moment in the spotlight for this work and Burma, despite the end result seeing fewer released than expected. Hopefully there is more to come as the countdown to the book being launched in Rangoon in mid-November draws ever closer.
Finding myself on a European timezone was not ideal with the long expected prisoner amnesty about to unfold. The first phone call of the day was at 4:00am and a long day ensued. It’s hard enough getting verified information out of Burma at the best of times, but in times like these it can become chaotic almost instantaneously as thousands turn to Twitter and other social networks, making announcements and forwarding third hand information that creates hysteria one minute and heartbreak the next. With reporters stationed at most of the key prisons across Burma, the exiled media and underground reporters, as well as citizen journalists, played their role in breaking the news live and with DVB’s rolling live updates for once it felt Burma was not a million miles away. An unexpected call from CNN in Hong Kong woke me from my early morning slumber as Zarganar was walking through the gates of Mytikyina prison and a request to be interviewed and show our work on the main network news at 08:00 Eastern USA time. The Guardian centrefold had got round the world quickly and brought with it more requests to show the photographs and give analysis and opinion as hopes of real reform in Burma started to fade once more. From Hong Kong to Bush House in 10 minutes flat and we just made the BBC World Service in time, but as the Norwegian Foreign Minister was starting to exaggerate the change underway the presenters cut short what was about to turn into a fully heated debate.
This time expectations were higher than before, but caution was key, as before too long it became clear that this would be just another game of smoke and mirrors, once more played out to make a mockery of the watching world. Zarganar was freed early on as was expected, soon followed by a host of political prisoners who had suffered illness or had been jailed for many years – Nyi Nyi Oo would finally taste freedom after 23 years jailed for being framed for a bombing incident that the KNU would later admit to. U Than Lwin and U Kyaw Khin, two former NLD MPs elected in 1990, walked free but left behind 10 more who are still incarcerated. Rumours from Reuters soon had the world believing Ashin Gambira was free, but alas it would be the closest we would come to seeing any of the more prominent dissidents and opponents to this tyrannic regime be released from their dark cells. I expected 400 to be released, as had been widely touted by many. I hoped that the 88 Generation Students would be among them, but only hoped with no real expectation. My friend Andrew Buncombe, South-East Asia correspondent for The Independent was texting me from Bodh Gya in India, where Thein Sein was seeking enlightenment and doing his best to dodge Andrew’s questions.
Montage of Burma’s political prisoners taken from the forthcoming book ‘Abhaya – Burma’s Fearlessness’
This prisoner amnesty has been expected for some time and now that it has been and gone and the dust starts to settle. it’s time to take stock, a step back and wonder what cards the Generals and the democracy movement will play next. Rightly so, Burma’s so-called civilian government must face worldwide condemnation for this farcical amnesty and in no way must any form of concessions be given away in regards to sanctions or deals of any other kind from the IMF and World Bank. But I do not believe this is the last that we will see. I think that this could be the first part of Thein Sein’s plans as he tests the water to see just how much he has to give away to get what he wants. I strongly believe that, as in 2004, we will see further releases of political prisoners over the coming months and hopefully culminating with the release of the 88 Generation Students and other key protaganists who must be free to shape Burma’s future including ethnic leaders and more than 250 members of the NLD who still remain behind bars. Despite the joy that must be acknowledged in seeing 220 political prisoners walk free, I am deeply dissatisfied with the 24 hours that have passed. But I retain hope and the belief that there is more to come.