The Irrawaddy

Women Photographers Own Yangon Photo Night 2018

The Yangon Photo Festival team.

YANGON — Women photographers won big at Saturday’s Yangon Photo Night, the awards event for this year’s Yangon Photo Festival.

At this year’s festival, its 10th running, the night featured 16 nominated photo essays on everything from human rights to animals from both professional and amateur photographers from across the country.

“There are over 100 photo stories submitting for this year. It wasn’t easy to choose this nominated 16 stories and it’s the hardest part of this event,” said festival director Christophe Loviny.

The essays — six from professionals and 10 from amateurs — were judged by a jury of photographers and others before a public audience at the Institut Français de Birmanie.

Seng Mai accepts the top award for professional photographers. /Chanson / The Irrawaddy

A photo essay about female soldiers fighting for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) by Seng Mai, a Kachin woman and editor-in-chief of the Myitkyina News Journal, won first prize among the professionals.

“I’m so happy to win this first prize and I’m much happier that I can show the abilities of Kachin’s female soldiers in front of the ambassadors and the international and professional photographers,” Seng Mai, 28, told The Irrawaddy.

“There’s a war happened in Kachin State and I would like to show the struggle of female soldiers participating in the war and what their life is like, how they survive,” she said.

“I started this project in November 2017. I went to Laiza and asked authorities for permission to take pictures, but [at first] they refused. Finally the authorities gave me a chance to take pictures but only for 24 hour. Their rules are very strict and mostly they don’t want to show their faces.”

But she did manage to find one girl who was willing to have her face photographed because she had no plans to leave the KIA.

“I’m not very satisfied with this photo essay myself because I got only one day and I didn’t get really good shots. But it still shows the real life of Kachin’s female soldiers, and I think I won the prize because not everyone gets the opportunity to take photos of the KIA,” she said.

Seng Mai also won at last year’s festival for a photo essay about female drug addicts.

Su Su Mon accepts the top award for amateur photographers. / Chanson / The Irrawaddy

Among the amateur nominees, Su Su Mon won first prize for a collection of self-portraits.

“I didn’t expect to win the prize and I can’t express with words how happy I am right now,” the 21-year-old said on stage through tears of joy.

Her photo essay focuses on her life growing up with five siblings and no parents and overcoming a physical disability.

Nyan Zay Htet accepts the second-place award for professional photographers. / Chanson / The Irrawaddy

Nyan Zay Htet won second place among the professional nominees and with it a trip to Amsterdam for the World Press Photo Awards.

Among the 16 nominees, nine walked away with awards in all.

The 10th Yangon Photo Festival opened on Feb. 16 and will run until March 4. Admission to the exhibits is free. For more information visit www.yangonphoto.com.