Although having one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the last decade, with significant advancements in modernization and higher living standards, Vietnam is still home to many traditional cultures living in several regions of the country. These include the northern and central mountain areas, the Cham region on the south eastern coast, and the Khmer precincts of the Mekong Delta. Because of severely diminishing numbers, many of these cultures are considered “vanishing”.
Asian photographers who live and work in Asia, and especially in developing countries like Myanmar, don’t often get much attention in the West. This is now beginning to change, but only slowly. One such photographer breaking through is Burma’s most famous all around lensman, Kyaw Kyaw Winn.
As a Southeast Asia nomad for the better part of two decades, Vietnam has always been one of my very favorite places to photograph. On the surface it’s easy to see why – the spectacular, seemingly endless mountain rice terraces of the northwest; 54 colorful tribal/ethnic groups, most of whom still live traditional lifestyles; the fabled karst limestone formations of Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bays; The Imperial City of Hue and several other World Heritage sites; the French colonial, “Indochine” streets of Hanoi and Saigon; 2,000 miles of gorgeous coastline; the legendary Mekong Delta, and so much more.
What is most striking for a visiting photographer to Myanmar, beyond the legions of magnificent pagodas and monasteries, is its people. The 135 ethnic groups offer an extraordinary diversity of subjects to be sure, but it’s their welcoming nature and willingness to open their lives to the camera toting foreigner that never ceases to amaze. As a photography director for a travel company based in Myanmar, I have been fortunate enough to work all over this very photogenic land with its two most celebrated travel shooters, as well as a major award winning western photographer who knows it well.