The Irrawaddy

Women Photographers Tell Life Stories Through Images

YANGON — Thuma Collective, a group of Myanmar women photographers, is holding its debut exhibition, “Us and Beyond”, at the Myanmar Deitta Gallery in Yangon through June 2.

The exhibition features works by Thuma Collective members Khin Kyi Htet, Rita Khin, Shwe Wutt Hmon, Tin Htet Paing, and Yu Yu Myint Than.

Each of the women has created a photo story to be displayed in the exhibition, many of which draw on deeply personal aspects of their or others’ lives in an effort to communicate with the audience, said Rita Khin, a member of the collective.

Shwe Wutt Hmon’s photo story ‘Life in a Love’ is displayed as part of the ‘Us and Beyond’ exhibition by Thuma Collective. (Photos: Htet Wai/The Irrawaddy )

“We have all tried our hardest to put this exhibition together. It took about eight months to make it happen; it hasn’t been easy,” she said.

Thuma Collective was launched in October last year. The group includes seven women but two were not in the group anymore.

A detail from the ‘Body and Soul’ photo series by Rita Khin (Photos: Htet Wai/The Irrawaddy )

“After launching the group, we started to choose topics. Then, we had to think about how to tell these stories through photos; that was the really difficult part,” Rita Khin said.

Through her photo story, “Body and Soul”, she hopes to convey the message that trans men, trans women and gay people are as human as anyone else and deserve to be respected.

“I have two main characters in my photo story; one is a trans man and the other is a trans woman. I wanted to show that regardless of what type of body they were born into, their inner mind or soul may correspond to the opposite gender,” said Rita Khin.

The ‘Us and Beyond’ group exhibition by Thuma Collective is ongoing at Myanmar Deitta Gallery in Yangon. (Photos: Htet Wai/The Irrawaddy )

She added, “This series brings to light the nuances of emotional and physical expressions of transgender people as they transition toward their pursued identities.”

The main trans man featured in the exhibit is her cousin. The cousin and the family didn’t know how to address his identity at first. When the photographer asked her cousin, he said he wanted to be addressed as her brother.

“We can’t criticize them for their body type; we should respect the gender appearance they choose,” Rita Khin said.

Tin Htet Paing’s photo story, “More Than My Blindness,” centers on a blind girl. The photographer said she is interested in the lives of visually impaired people, and the ways they engage with others.

Shwe Wutt Hmon chose to tell what she described as “the beautiful love story” between her grandparents in her photo story “Life in a Love”, while Yu Yu Myint Than’s collection “Letters to Love” combines her photography with handwritten letters she has penned to her loved ones: her boyfriend, members of her future children, and even herself.

Thuma Collective has released a photo book to accompany this exhibition, available for preorder. The book includes all of the photos on display at the gallery, along with numerous others, creating a different feel than the exhibition, Rita Khin said. The book costs USD35.

The exhibition runs till June 2 at Myanmar Deitta Gallery from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery is closed on Mondays.