Another day, another street photography book from New York, London, Paris (though perhaps not Paris so much these days given French privacy laws). There’a a big world out there and for all the growth of digital photography and online photo sharing much of it remains hidden. So from time to time it’s a treat to come across a photographer, or in this case a photographers’ collective, showing us someplace or something new or rarely seen. In this case the collective is simple called ‘Featured Collectives’ and the place is (mostly) Myanmar.
I was fortunate enough to visit Myanmar in 2015, at a time when the country was opening up after the years of military dictatorship, and before that same military siezed power again earlier this year. I didn’t take nearly enough photographs, since I was visiting with friends, but Yangon where I stayed was clearly a wonderful photographic subject.
Back in Manila, where I was living at the time, I later came across ‘Featured Collectives’ and their book of street photography on the Invisible Photographer Asia website and eventually tracked down copies of the book at Riceball in Singapore. So on my next visit to the city I stopped by and picked up one of the two remaining copies.
The driving force behind ‘Features Collectives’ is Chit Min Maung. Witnessing the growth of street photography across the region, but aware that Myanmar was getting left behind, he established ‘Featured Collectives’ to help drive the development of street photography by Myanmar photographers. The book was published in 2016 alongside an exhibition in Yangon of work by the collective.
The photographs are an interesting mix. Unlike some street photography groups there is no attempt to enforce a particular style or definition of what consitutes street photography, and the book is all the better for that. There are more than 200 photographs in the book, by at least 20 photographers (I didn’t try to count them all). Most of the images are from Myanmar and Yangon in particular but there are also pictures from Myanmar photographers based in Singapore, Bali and Bangladesh. There are many good pictures in here and plenty of great pictures.
The one let down is the quality of the printing, though whether that is a matter of cost or a lack of publishers able to print at sufficiently high quality is not clear. Despite that you can still appreciate the many great images in here and a number of them can also be seen online where they often look better.
‘Featured Collectives’ is still on the go and has a website where members of the group post regularly. Of late, as a result of the political upheavals in the country, the group has been shooting more documentary photography as members have joined the crowds protesting against the military coup. Both the website and their Facebook page are regularly updated with pictures from the protests, and the Facebook page has a strong statement of their opposition to the coup.
These more recent pictures are a reminder that photography is not just a matter of fun, or simply a creative outlet, but that it has an important role to play in revealing what is happening in our world for good or ill, often beyond the reach or interest of the professional media. I once thought I would like to get back to Yangon and spend more time phtographing. That seems like a distant prospect now, but this book is a great reminder of my brief time there and an insight into the big world beyond New York, London (and Paris).
- Featured Collectives Website
- Featured Collectives on Facebook
- Featured Collectives on Instagram
- Book and Exhibition announcement on IPA
- Featured Collectives in the Myanmar Times