A photographic project featuring the people of New York has inspired a group of Yangon teenagers to capture images of a diverse range of the city’s residents.
The “Humans of New York” project started in November 2010 with a target of collecting 10,000 portraits of city dwellers and has become a social media phenomenon, with more than 12 million followers on Facebook and more than two million followers on Instagram.
“Rangoon Revealed” – described as the work of “a group of proactive teenagers hoping to make the bustling” commercial capital more visible – has a more modest Facebook audience of 4,000 people who follow a page founded in 2014.
Through photo-blogging, the teenagers hope to collect a complete picture of Yangon “with all its vibrancy and cultural intensity” and offer insights into the lives of its people.
The “Humans of New York” project was devised by American photographer Brandon Stanton, who in December 2013 was named as one of Time magazine’s “30 Under 30 People Changing The World”.
The photo bloggers for “Rangoon Revealed” use the same basic approach that has worked well for “Humans of New York”: they take images of the “ordinary person on the street” and let them tell their own story.
They include is a trishaw driver who offers an insight into the toil involved in transporting people across the city. His photo received 6,000 “Likes” and 650 shares. There is a rope seller who stresses the importance of education.
“I’ve been lifting these ropes for 30 years. I’ve seen Myanmar change and this is what I have found out. Education is vital. You kids have a chance to learn. Make sure you try hard now so you won’t have to suffer in the future. Don’t make that fatal mistake,” he said.
Mizzima asked Rangoon Revealed to share some of its favourite stories and images, which are published with permission. For more go to https://www.facebook.com/rangoonrevealed
“I have a twin brother who looks like me but is very smart. I failed 9th Grade 3 times you see so I decided to support my siblings by working as a trishaw driver. While I was working hard, my brother was studying as best as he could too. He got four distinctions in the 11th grade exam. He got a job in Korea now and is going there in a few months.”
“What is the most memorable time with your brother?”
“Once, a few months ago, when we were going to the monastery, he cried and hugged me and thanked me for everything I had done for him. He is a great brother, you know.”
“What will you do after he leaves?”
“I still have one sister I have to support. She is in 6th Grade and is always getting 1st in exams. It is my duty as the eldest brother to support her.”
“I started painting in my twenties. It was hard at first but slowly I became better.”
“How did you learn to paint?”
“I took classes at a school but the tuition was really expensive. Luckily, a Philippine ambassador found me and let me attend there for free. It really was an amazing experience. I also would watch painters on the streets to improve myself.”
He told me he had his own art shop in 35th street near Sule Pagoda. “Just ask for Pa Je U Tint,” he said.
Boy in hospital
“My ear got swollen and lots of blood came out yesterday.”
“What are you doing outside your room? You should rest.”
“I’m waiting for the nurse to change my clothes for an operation. I am a bit afraid.”
“Where are your parents?”
“My mom is dead and my father is working in the Thai border. I am living with my uncle.”
*I showed him my scar on my stomach when I had a surgery. He smiled when I showed him and I took a picture of him. When I tried to give him 5000 kyats he did not accept it. I wanted to help him so I asked what he wanted. He replied, “Just my father.” *
This Article first appeared in the February 19, 2015 edition of Mizzima Weekly.
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