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The Beginning of A Beautiful Breakthrough: Yangon Photo Festival 2016

The Yangon Photo Festival 2016 took place over 12th – 31st March this year, and drew crowds from all over the world. The first of it’s kind, the festival -under the patronage of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi- is more than just a regular photo exhibition.

Founded in 2008 by the Institute Francais de Birmanie, the festival was a response to the Saffron Revolution, intended as a platform for photographers and photojournalists to highlight the challenges Myanmar was facing. The revolution was triggered by the national military’s decision to remove subsidies on the sale of fuel, after which the country was shaken by a series of economic and political protests and demonstrations that took place from August to September 2007.

Fast forward 8 years, as the country starts a new chapter in its history, the Yangon Photo Festival has trained more than 500 photographers through workshops and master classes who’ve documented this historic transition. Using pure visuals, they tell the story of the country’s plight with powerful photo-stories, covering social, cultural and environmental issues. It is no wonder it’s become one of the main international yearly events in Myanmar.

The 20-day long festival this year saw 15 different exhibitions and tens of screenings across the city, including 2 new international events; the World Press Photo Exhibition and Gamma Agency’s 50th Anniversary Exhibition, a photography agency founded in Paris that has showcased the works of some of the biggest names in photojournalism. The festival also welcomed eminent German photographer and environmentalist, Hans Silvester, whose work showcases the symbiotic relation between nature, animals and humans.


One of the major highlights of the photo festival was the awards ceremony, Yangon Photo Night, where photographers competed for the Best Photo-Story of the Year. Aside from having their works screened publicly, participants stood to win prizes, including professional cameras by Canon– a 2016 Gold sponsor who’s supported the event for eighth consecutive years. This year’s winner, Minzayar Oo, told a heart-wrenching story of human trafficking within the Jade mining industry, entitled “The Price of Jade”.

History has taught us that big changes start with small steps, and clearly, this is but the beginning of a new era for Myanmar.

Learn more about the Yangon Photo Festival here:  www.yangonphoto.com


Mona Teo
Profile of writer
Mona Teo is a writer based in Singapore who believes that there is nothing more powerful than the written word (not counting coffee). An avid scuba diver and traveler, she relies on her Kindle to get her through flights and seeks inspiration from the world around her.