One Week, 30 People, 300 Images of Burma

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 9 January 2014

RANGOON — The latest photography book about Burma to hit bookstores, “7 Days in Myanmar,” offers something different.

Unlike other coffee-table books on the Southeast Asian nation, this large-format, 276-page book by Editions Didier Millet publishing group includes photographs not only by well-known international photographers, but also by local photographers.

Twenty-one foreigners from 10 different countries and nine Burmese photographers traveled to every corner of Burma— from major cities to small villages in the country’s hilly regions and the southern and western coasts —over seven days in April to May last year. Along the way, they captured images of people, landscapes, industries and traditions in modern Burma, as the country emerges from five decades of isolation from the outside world.

In 300 photographs, the book captures not only Burma’s best-known tourist attractions—including the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay, Buddhist monasteries in Bagan and the floating gardens of Inle Lake—but also the daily realities of ordinary people from all walks of life, in all their complexity and diversity, as Burmese historian Dr. Thant Myint-U says in a foreword to the book. The local photographers traveled to areas that are off limits to foreigners, from the jade mines in northern Burma to cities in western Burma’s Arakan State that have been difficult to access in recent months due to inter-communal violence. The book also contains images of the Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, as Burma and its athletes prepared for the 27th Southeast Asian Games.

The images are accompanied by an introduction to Burma, written by veteran Associated Press journalist Denis Gray, as well as an essay about 19th-century photography in colonial Burma by historian John Falconer of the British Library. A behind-the-scenes story by the book’s general editor, Nicholas Grossman, is a fascinating read that offers insight on the difficulties of documenting a country in such depth over the course of one week.

And there were challenges, as the goal was not to produce typical postcard photographs.

“We wanted to capture fresh angles of the country as seen through the eyes of great lensmen who are well known for their original visions,” project director Melisa Teo explains in the book.

With even a quick perusal of the contents, many readers will likely agree that she and the photography team followed through with their aim.