If loss of tradition is the travel photographer’s enemy, then Myanmar is the photographer’s dream.
Every photographer with a hint of Vincent van Gogh in him – or a touch of romance, as my colleague, photographer Mark Parren Taylor puts it – will fall in love with Myanmar.
Of course, part of what we nostalgically refer to as picturesque or romantic is little more than stark poverty. But I must admit that tearing down the old wooden buildings and replacing them with concrete ones has done little to make the world more beautiful.
The pitfalls of photographing in a country like Myanmar are the clichés that lurk around every corner. But how do we avoid them? Take the Shwe Yan Pyay wooden monastery in Inle, for example, which is so strikingly beautiful it seems to have been deliberately placed there by the tourist board. Inside, the young, bald-headed monks are dressed in simple red robes and spend their days staring out of two oval windows.
I spent a full morning with the monks; enjoying their high spirits and catching a glimpse into the mysterious lives they lead. I documented every moment with my camera, but I was also eager to take a photo of the two oval windows – a very different photo from the many I had seen before.
The solution was really quite simple: photographing the scene from the inside looking out completely changed the atmosphere and did far more justice to the true nature of the place. It was, after all, the perspective of the monks, not of the visitors.