Crowdsourced Street Photography in Myanmar

red wall man myanmar

Featured Collectives, a photoblog established in 2015, brings together images of daily life in Myanmar. In recent years the country has begun to open, socially and politically, and is becoming better known by foreigners. The site is run by photographer Chit Min Maung and crowdsources images taken by largely non-professional photographers to show diverse aspects of daily life in a country which has until recently received little exposure in the West.

Myanmar basket woman

The ubiquity of cameraphones and accessibilty of digital cameras makes documentation by ordinary citizens possible to a far greater extent than it was in the past. This provides a mechanism for ordinary citizens of Myanmar to archive this period of rapid change and to record realities as they perceive them. The internet, meanwhile, provides a cheap and easy way for people like Chit Min Maung to showcase images in a way which makes them visible to the world.

Yet in another sense the images also make me feel slightly uncomfortable about the pervasive influence of globalisation. One the one hand, many of the scenes depicted in the images could be found almost anywhere. Some of these relate to the need to meet basic human needs, for example buying and selling fruit and vegetables:

myanmar food basket.jpg

Others demonstrate the aggressive expansion of Western style capitalism into Myanmar, for example in an image juxtaposing a street trader with an advert for luxury serviced apartments. Almost identical adverts can be found in cities across the world but especially in developing countries where the pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies have allowed elites to accrue so much wealth that they can seal themselves in luxury bubbles, distant from the lives of ordinary citizens.

myanmar luxury apartments

 

It is also interestingis how closely the vast majority of images featured on the site conform to the standards of composition and proportion favoured in western photojournalism. This is certainly not a negative appraisal of their aesthetic merit – I find many of the images beautiful. But it is striking that a largely culturally specific, western understanding of “good” photography can be seen to dominate in images made largely by amateurs, in a country considered by many as largely cut-off from much of the rest of the world. If nothing else, these images highlight that, with few exceptions, almost nowhere can now be viewed outside of the global system in not only economic but also aesthetic and cultural terms.

 

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Categories: Asia, Uncategorized

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