About this project
I grew up in New York, and it’s on crowded city streets where I feel at home, watching lives play out, in places like Brazil, Bangladesh, and Burma. Photography is the best way to find the pulse of a place, to explore, to reflect, to understand who we are. My work has been published in magazines including Geo, the New York Times, Newsweek, and others all over the world.
Five years ago I created Verve Photo, a blog which showcases powerful work by international documentary photographers. Besides shooting and editing, in recent years I have been teaching photography and digital media as a Fulbright scholar in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan.
The Burma Project
The country that has drawn me back most often is Burma, one of the world’s poorest and most isolated places. I first went in 1987 on the one-week visa. After a frenetic trip, it wasn’t so much the monks and pagodas that haunted me, but the faces of the Burmese, painted in white, often smiling. I wanted to find out more about who they really were, plagued by a corrupt and isolationist military dictatorship. Despite international sanctions that included a travel boycott, I decided to return in 2000. The military now called the country 'Myanmar' and was no less repressive but allowed me to stay longer and travel more freely. The result was the multimedia web site Burma: Grace Under Pressure, which won awards and was seen by millions.
Fast forward to 2011, when the US Embassy hired me to teach photojournalists in Yangon. I got on the plane that May with a tourist visa, worried that my name might be on a blacklist at customs. I did not know that the government was beginning to relax censorship and free political prisoners. There was still not one picture of ‘The Lady’, not anywhere, and no one talked about her.
By early 2012, all that had changed. It was amazing to witness one of the first rallies where Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party were allowed to appear in public. The Irrawaddy News and Foreign Policy Magazine published my stories of events in Burma. Some of the photographs were chosen for exhibit by Fotofest Cincinnati in their Reporting Back 2012 event.
I returned yet again in 2013. My camera focused on capturing daily life, from the cramped streets of the British colonial capital of Yangon, to dusty markets in Mandalay, to Muslims in Meikhtila, and river life in Pathein.
Everybody asks, where can I buy the book? Now the time is right to share these images, as Burma is poised for big changes, and politicians, businesses and NGO’s from around the world begin to stream into the country. The face of Yangon has already changed, with new building construction and imported cars. What is unique about this country is how the military dictatorship after 50 years has itself initiated this historic opening, allowing unheard of political and cultural freedom. The real question is how this will play out in the lives of the Burmese people.
I am asking for your help to self-publish a book. As some of you know, with changes in digital technology the publishing industry is going through a transformation, and publishers are reluctant to print books by even the most accomplished photographers.
A professional team is in place. Editors/designers Natasha Chandani and Lana Cavar have begun working with me to produce a high-quality 192-page book of color photographs in a 7 x 9 1/2 inch format.
Essays by prominent Burmese writer Dr. Ma Thida, a human rights activist and herself a former political prisoner, and also journalist Francis Wade will accompany the images to explain the context in Burma today. The book will be in print by April 2014.
Please help to make this project a reality. Your donation will pay for the costs of producing and printing a beautiful book. Among the rewards are limited edition prints and a signed copy of the book.
Remember, Kickstarter crowdfunding is all or nothing- if we do not raise our entire goal, the project will not be funded. Thank you so much for supporting this important work and spreading the word to colleagues and friends!
Reviews of Burma: Grace Under Pressure
“It’s fabulous. One of the most compelling combinations of photography, audio and text that I’ve seen. The subject is also rich, and you have mined a very deep vein.”
-Peter Howe, former photo editor, LIFE magazine
“This is a very moving site. I was totally satisfied with the story told, which is saying a lot for something done in this medium where too many things get in the way.”
-Steven Heller, Art Director, New York Times
“I went through the whole site, and it’s stunning. A beautiful job.”
-Richard Reid, The Oregonian
“Burma: Grace Under Pressure exploits the visual power of the web to help the world glimpse the lives of people living under a brutal dictatorship.”
Risks and challenges
If we raise the money to print Burma in Transition I don't anticipate major challenges. I am used to producing assignments and meeting deadlines. The team has set a realistic publication date, so we expect to meet our commitments to donors in a timely manner.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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