Young, Gifted and Searching

By The Irrawaddy 25 September 2014

YANGON — US photographer Diana Markosian was inspired by Myanmar’s youth during a recent month-long stay in the country, when she hung out with artists, rappers, dancers and other creative types.

“I think the new generation aspires to a different kind of future. They want the government to follow through with this promise of a new era of openness. You can feel this on the streets in Yangon as more and more youth are daring to emerge from the political shadows,” she told Slate magazine.

“A lot of the people driving the change are people my age. They are twenty-somethings who intend to go beyond the status quo,” she said. Markosian decided to try doing a portrait series as an experiment. The images were taken outside at night against Yangon’s decaying walls.

“I wanted the youth to contrast the old walls, as a metaphor of sorts. This is a new generation trying to distance themselves from the past. They are active individuals with a strong voice. I wanted to have them in an open space rather than inside or caged between four walls.”

Markosian’s lens spotlights a restless energy among a generation hoping to find and forge new visions of the future:

Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein, aka Lady Gaga of Myanmar, 32, singer: “They say I am too different, too bold, but I like bling blings and beautiful dresses. I am often compared to Lady Gaga, but I am just a girl from the Third World.”

Steven Oo, 28, fashion designer who moved back to Myanmar after his family emigrated to the United States: “I don’t want my country to become the backend of fashion.”

Jessica Dada, 24, model: “This country isn’t ready for my face. Why was I born here? I wonder this every day.”

Ye Naung, 21, underground hip hop artist: “My music doesn’t match our people. They don’t know how to feel it.”

Htin Htin, 25, editor of Moda, the first fashion magazine in Myanmar: “The fashion in Burma is either too traditional or out of date. I want my people to be more contemporary. This is why I started the magazine.”

This story first appeared in the September 2014 print edition of The Irrawaddy Magazine.