Sittwe, Shan State, a blind school, ringside at a championship MMA fight, Mandalay.... June and July were two months of logging miles and minutes.
Truth be told, things have been a bit grim here in Burma when it comes to press freedom, and freedom is speech in general. Several journalists were arrested and are currently being held in jail- simply for doing their job. I made a 101 video on the subject for Frontier Myanmar:
I started the month by heading to Rakhine State. I spent a week in Sittwe, facing the trials and tribulations of dealing with bureaucracy. I was also there during Ramadan, adding an extra layer of emotion when walking past empty mosques and Muslim IDP camps. The trip, while not what I initially intended for it to be, was a success; I look forward to sharing the finished product next month.
Coming back to Yangon allowed me to pick back up on a project I started before a few whirlwind weeks of travel- the Centre for the Blind in northern Yangon. The school houses children ranging from age 5-25, teaching students a range of vocational and educational skills.
I took over the Women Photograph Instagram in June, and the post I wrote that accompanied the photo directly below that I feel really sums up the experience for me: "Some of the best journalism advice I've ever gotten was, 'Do/hold on to whatever keeps you soft.' At one point today I sat on the stairs of the blind school in Yangon , trying to gently take photos of the primary age students. During a rare quiet moment they heard my camera shutter and started running their hands over my body and camera, asking me who I am and if I wanted to play. It's moments like this that I hold on to."
I met and photographed Aung La N Sang, the "Burmese Python" who was returning to Burma to fight in a championship MMA match. Turns out Aung La is as kind as he is tall and I truly enjoyed spending an afternoon with him (and later watching him win his match).
Turns out he now lives just a few miles north of my home in America. I'm looking forward to making a stop by his gym when I'm back for a week in September.
The next story I worked on was a little more peaceful, if not a little melancholy. I met with traditional Burmese harp-maker Aye Aung Win to talk about his craft, and his fears of it one day being obsolete. His studio was colorful and acted as a living memory of his father, who was the one who taught him the art of Burmese harp-making. You can see the video that I worked on with Nay Aung Khine:
Heading back out on the road, I spent last week in Mandalay and Shan State working on a story that will be out in Frontier Myanmar in the coming weeks. I hate to be so vague, but it was an incredible trip that I feel incredible humble and privlidged to have had/worked on.
And then there are always the moments that photos and video can never quite fully capture; flowers given, bananas picked, embarrassing trips on the sidewalk, language-lesson faux pas and laughs... endless little things that make me forever grateful to be in the line of work that I am, where I am, with who I am.
There are some exciting stories coming from Burma in the next few weeks- so please check back next month.