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Yangon Rough & Tender

Aun Raza

Once remote, mysterious and seemingly frozen in time, by the end of 2012, Myanmar had began to reveal itself to the world. The repressive effects of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, initiated by students, political activists and monks, were fading and one could feel a sense of cautious optimism in
the air. A kind of liberalization of the country through mobile phones (and the now ubiquitous selfies) were still a year away and traffic jams, a thing of the future. Today, I see Yangon as a city of surreptitious beauty and solitary fantasies. Taking pictures for me is a way of catching a glimpse into people’s lives, sometimes sharing intimate, candid moments with them. It has become a way to read and understand the reality that surrounds me. I grounded this interest first through drawing and painting, however the immediacy of photography offered a way for me to capture evanescent sketches and impressions, which I was often unable to do with painting. People in ordinary situations generated an urgency and expectation, and hence for me, these images foretell change.

My travels provided me a fertile ground for exploring contrasting realities and sensitivities: exasperation and desires, music and chaos, despair and solace, life and desolation – it all kept me awake and with a thirst to document the rising tide of transition. Crossing borders, physically and metaphorically has nevertheless been pivotal to my discovery of the self. “The rest of the world” for so many years was shrouded in a spell of silence, and the discontinuity fostered both distance and humour. It led to an inner discovery, even incongruity, but also stillness and contemplation.

All images from the series Yangon Rough & Tender, Yangon, 2012-2015 Digital

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