Up-and-coming photographers as well as professionals were honored on Feb. 24 at the 11th Yangon Photo Night, an awards ceremony that forms one of the highlights of the annual Yangon Photo Festival. The event was followed by a wrap party at the French Institute attended by the award-winning photographers and other guests.
The ongoing 11th Yangon Photo Festival started Feb. 18 and runs through March 4. It features a series of free exhibitions, activities, screenings and parties at Goethe Villa, Maha Bandoola Park and the French Institute.
In this year’s edition, the festival received about 120 photo story submissions from both beginners and professionals. At the awards night, organizers displayed the work of 16 nominees. The photo essays covered a variety of issues including peace and conflict, animal welfare, and human rights, but this year’s main focus was environmental issues.
The photo competition has two categories: Emerging Level and Professional Level. In the Emerging Level category, four winners were chosen from 11 nominated photo essays, while at the Professional Level, three awards were given to photo essays from among five nominees. The judging was done by a jury comprising international photographers and others in front of a large audience.
Photographer Hkun Lat won first prize in the Professional category for his story “The Peace House”. Zarni Phyo won second prize for his breaking news coverage of the case of the two arrested Reuters journalists. His story was named after the reporters: “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo”.
“I’m so happy to receive the first prize, but I especially appreciate that the Yangon Photo Festival teams and juries recognized the creations of [all of the photographers],” said Hkun Lat.
He added that, “If the Yangon Photo Festival didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have a place to show our photos and documentaries. YPF is a photo platform for us, so thanks to the [YPF] team.”
“The Peace House” chronicles the situation of government and ethnic Kachin troops based near the Hpare IDP camp in Kachin State. Near the camp, Myanmar Military (or Tatmadaw) and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops are stationed so close together that sometimes they can even hear each other talking. The soldiers from both sides actually try to maintain a peaceful situation and help each other.
Between their two bases, soldiers from the Tatmadaw and KIA built a bamboo house and named it “The Peace House”. The place has become a meeting point where they can drink, eat, share food and watch movies on phones together. Ko Hkun Lat went to the Hpare IDP camp twice and captured many of the peaceful moments between the soldiers.
The third prize went to Ko Myo for his photo essay “Hunting the Poachers” about the illegal trade in wild elephant parts.
“In the last 10 years, we have trained more than 1,000 young men and women from all backgrounds, religions and ethnicities to produce short documentaries and photo stories about social and environmental issues,” said Christophe Loviny, founder and director of the Yangon Photo Festival.
He added that, “The most efficient counterattacks against the propagators of hate speech and fake news are real stories strong enough to reach an audience as large as the haters.”
The public can view the winning photo essays, and some produced at YPF training sessions, at the Myanmar Stories Facebook page, he said.
In the Emerging Photographers category, Sandar Lin won first prize with “Flying Free”, while, “The Little Women” by three young photographers Tin Aye Hlaing, Shin Thant Hmue and Wai Wai Aung won second prize.
Bawk Ra, Htang San and Zau Dam won third prize with “A New Start?” Harry Phyo won fourth prize for “Will her dream come true?”
The prizes for the winners included Canon professional cameras, a residency at the famous 75 photography school in Brussels and a trip to the World Press Photo Awards ceremony in Amsterdam.
Ko Hkun Lat was lucky enough to win the World Press Photo Awards ceremony trip. “I’m so excited about that trip,” he said. “That is an unbelievable chance for me; the World Press Photo Awards ceremony is the biggest there is. I’m so happy to get the chance to see the world’s best photographers and learn from their creations.”