Responsible Photography in Myanmar

Welcome to Myanmar (Burma), a traditional and amazing country with a great mixture of Asian cultures all living together. There are many things that will catch your attention, like women with thanaka make-up, men wearing the longyi (traditional skirt), and lines of monks dressed in red and orange passing through the streets early in the morning.

What is Responsible Photography?

Responsible Photography involves taking into consideration and respecting how a person would feel about you taking a picture of them. How you ask and interact with them will make a big difference to their reaction.

When you see someone in Myanmar (Burma) that you want to take a picture of, smile, say hello, ask for permission, … but please don’t just get close to someone, take a picture, and leave. I have seen this happen a lot in Myanmar and it really bothers me. Please keep in mind you are not in a zoo taking pictures of monkeys!

Learn a few simple phrases in Burmese such as “mingala ba” (Hello), “Nei kaun ye la” (How are you?) “Kyei zu tin ba de” (Thank you)… so you can at least greet and thank your subjects.

Why is it important?

Responsible photography is important because although Myanmar is full of amazing sites and people, who have different customs and traditions, they are people after all. Respect their reactions when you take out your camera and understand that not everybody likes been photographed.

“Spending time with people and photographing them should be a win-win situation. You and your subjects should enjoy the experience, and both of you get something good out of it”.

“Remember that you are an ambassador of your own culture and of photographers. Leave a good trail!”

(Photography Field Guide: People and Portraits, by Robert Caputo)

5 Examples of responsible taken photographs:

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When you take pictures of strangers you have to be self-confident, if not, people will feel your nervousnss and this may make them uncomfortable as well, and that will come across in the picture.

Just be friendly and open, approach and talk to them. If they see you going around, hiding your camera and sneeking pictures, they will not trust you.

If you want to take photographs of people going about their business without possing and noticing you, one way is by using long lens. If they notice you, smile and wave. Don’t just turn and leave. You can also go and show them the picture you have just taken. This simple gesture will make them feel not used and many people will like that you have shared your picture with them.

When you see someone that catches your attention, don’t just approach and snap, take some time to talk and stablish a little conversation (without your camera out). There is a reason why this person catch your attention, you are curious about what they are doing or about them. Let them know this curiosity. Most people are happy when someone shows interest in them or what they are doing and are happy to talk. After a while, you can ask for a picture and in most cases they will not refuse. If they do, move on; there are plenty of other interesting photos to take in Myanmar.

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