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Brennan O`Connor April 24, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Karen State, Myanmar 2013

Brennan O`Connor (b. 1970, Canada) has worked for many of Canada’s leading publications before dedicating himself full time to cover self-generated under reported stories in mainstream media. In 2010, he relocated to Asia to follow a long-term project on Burma’s borders and subsequent effects for ethnic populations whose traditional territories’ fall on both sides of the dividing lines. The project, will eventually cultivate into a book, has taken him around the region to photograph the numerous rebels, refugees and migrants residing in the borderlands. Brennan’s work has been published in Burn (USA), The Walrus (Canada), The National (UAE) and Al Jazeera (Qatar).

About the Photograph:

“Before this photo was taken in rebel controlled Karen state, the Karen National Union (KNU), (right) and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA); now named the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (center), were still fighting with each other. This image was taken in an area that both rebel groups controlled at different times and documents a joint medical operation only months after the two Karen armed groups mended their relationship. The carefree children passing by on the left depict the reliance of civilians that have had to accommodate the various armies that frequently passed through their villages during a civil war spanning over sixty years. In recent years a ceasefire was signed with both the KNU and DKBA-5, but the region still remains largely militarized, playing host to large numbers of armed groups, especially government troops.”

Geoffrey Hiller / Burma in Transition October 7, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Fish Market, Yangon 2013

Today we made our goal- it’s been quite a trip in Kickstarterland, working 24/7 to spread the word. Looking at the data, the progress was a slow and steady climb. Midway there was a lull and I did wonder if we were going to make it. But backers rallied…together we did it. I can’t wait to get started on the production, to sit down with the designers and start laying out the book.

There are three days left, and now we are in ‘stretch’ goal territory. Even though we have the minimum funds to publish, any further pledges will go directly into the project. It’s not over till it’s over: if you haven’t yet made a pledge, you can still do so. The deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 9 midnight EST.

What is really exciting is that a Burmese friend from Yangon emailed me last night to say he’s eager to help distribute the book. I interviewed him in January 2012, a remarkable time when political prisoners were being released, and pent-up emotions were surfacing. He was part of the 1988 opposition movement, and now runs  a non-profit that works on education issues. Less than two years ago, this would have been unthinkable.

Geoffrey Hiller Burma Book Project Update September 22, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Novice Monks, Bagan, Burma, 1987

About the Project

We are almost halfway into the Kickstarter campaign to publish “Burma in Transition”. The outpouring of support on social media has been wonderful! Great to see momentum building from the international photo community, especially in Europe.  It’s a great feeling to see over100 backers supporting the project. Each time someone new pledges, whatever the amount, it’s a huge pat on the back. But the fact is, it will take more than good wishes to pay the printer in Croatia. If you have been waiting on the sidelines, now is the time to contribute. Thank you.

Bagan, Burma 1987

About the Photographs

I made these photographs during my first trip to Burma in 1987. Back then foreigners were only issued a visa for seven days. It was a marathon trip covering the Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan triangle on night trains and buses. The day we arrived in Pagan there were large processions for young boys who were entering the monastery as novice monks. The boys were led into the temple by horse or carried by their families so their feet wouldn’t touch the ground. Inside the boys were blessed by the monks. In Burma it is common for Buddhist men, and many women, to spend part of their childhood as monks or nuns in order to receive a religious education, study Pali, and gain merit. In the mural behind the novices, the white elephants are revered symbols of power and good fortune.

The second photograph is of a snack food vendor outside of the same temple, waiting for customers as the crowd mills around. Bagan is a magnificent site with thousands of Buddhist pagodas built by the kings between 1100 and 1400, spread out on the arid plains. When I was there, the tourist town was a rustic village with dirt streets and thatched huts that served as guesthouses and food stalls. In 1990, the military generals forcibly moved the whole town to another site miles away where they built luxury hotels. Now for a few hundred dollars, visitors can fly above the ancient ruins in hot air balloons.

Geoffrey Hiller Burma Book Project on Kickstarter September 9, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Yangon 2012

Editor’s Note: Exciting news, I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to publish my book on Burma. My life-long dream has been to see my images in book form, to feel the weight of the pages and to share this experience with viewers.

A wonderful team is in place to help. Professional editors/designers, Natasha Chandani and Lana Cavar have begun working with me to produce a high-quality 192-page book of color photographs. Essays by prominent Burmese writer Dr. Ma Thida, a political activist and herself a former political prisoner, and journalist Francis Wade will accompany the images. The book will be in print by April 2014.

Please check out my Kickstarter page and help to make this project a reality. Your donation will pay for the costs of producing and printing a beautiful book. Among the rewards are limited edition prints and a signed copy of the book. Remember, Kickstarter crowd-funding is all or nothing- we need to raise our entire goal or the project won’t be funded.

Thank you so much for supporting this important work and spreading the word to colleagues and friends!

Geoffrey Hiller on the Recent Violence in Myanmar March 25, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Editor’s note: In light of last week’s tragic events in Meiktila, Myanmar I’m posting a report from my visit there last month. All photographs by Geoffrey Hiller.

College graduates leaving a beauty salon. Meiktila

About the Photographs:

Last month while in Myanmar I spent a few days in the town of Meiktila, in the center of the country between Naypyidaw and Mandalay. The bus from Taungoo was packed with people and chickens and bales of bamboo, and stopped every couple minutes to pick up more passengers.  The distance was 150 miles but the trip took eight hours. I had called the day before to reserve a room at the main hotel but was told it was fully booked. I didn’t want to return to Yangon or go on to Mandalay, so I went to Meiktila any way. Sure enough, plenty of rooms were available.

The bus dropped me off in the Muslim part of town near a large mosque, across from a tea shop where a man was baking nan in a fiery clay oven. I took a motorcycle-taxi to the hotel, had dinner and walked around the neighborhood to get oriented my first night. After the bustle of Yangon, the small-town atmosphere was welcoming. Shop owners relaxed outside on tree-lined streets, chatting with each other.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her former husband Michael Aris visited Meiktila on their honeymoon in 1972. It’s a pleasant town on a lake as big as Inle Lake. An English-style clock tower looms over the center of town. In my three days there the only other foreigner I met was a middle-aged man from Russia who spoke to me in Spanish.

The next day I visited one of the mosques on the other side of the railway tracks near my hotel. It was Friday afternoon, the Muslim sabbath, and was filled with men attending early afternoon Namaz service. After prayers they met in the front hall to socialize. One of them offered me bananas. Down the street there was an Indian grocery store run by Sikhs who had immigrated to Burma after the British left. I couldn’t help but notice the brisk business they were doing with a diversity of customers, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim.

I began my day at the Golden Rain Tea Shop, which was on a leafy street alongside three other large cafes. I noticed a brightly lit shop that turned out to be a beauty salon. It was graduation season and everywhere in Meiktila exquisitely dressed young women were getting ready for their commencement ceremonies. Photo studios were doing a brisk business. The graduates had majored in subjects such as electrical engineering and botany. It was doubtful that they would find work in those fields, but they were still hopeful.

In one salon owned by a group of gay men from Mandalay, a bride had just had her hair styled and was waiting for the groom to arrive.


Later in the day I photographed young girls breaking rocks by hand and paving the road. This was the norm for most, who had to leave school after a few years to do manual labor or housework or sell vegetables at the market. It reminded me of how little things have changed in Burma for centuries.

Buddhist monk collecting donations

One month after I left, the media reported that fighting erupted after an argument between a Buddhist couple and Muslim owners of a gold shop. After my experience in this peaceful town, the news reports about the fighting and killing and burning of homes is unbelievable to me. I had talked with dozens of residents of Meiktila, both Buddhists and Muslims, and I never would have guessed such violence would erupt. On my last day in Meiktila I waited for the night bus to Yangon at the Asia World stop, at a Shophouse where an extended Muslim family lived. The bus from Mandalay was two hours late but the father invited me in and offered me grapes. He showed me the rows of family photographs that covered the walls. As I follow the news, I fear for him and all his family who treated a stranger with such kindness.

An eery thing that I noticed after the bus picked me up was that an elderly monk who was sitting in the front got angry and started banging his plastic water bottle on the seat. The man next to me said that the bus had broken down before and the monk was frustrated because of the delay. This scene was uncharacteristic for the Burmese, and particularly a Buddhist monk. Now I wonder if it foreshadowed the shocking events to come.


Verve Photo Continues on September 5th August 22, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, United States.
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Waiting for a ferry on a pedestrian bridge over the Yangon River. Burma 2011

Editor’s Note: I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off and resume posting on Sept 5th. During the past four and a half years Verve Photo has showcased the work of close to 700 photographers. It’s an amazing archive and resource for our online community as well as the photo editors and creative directors looking for talent. A number of photographers have received assignments or sold work as a result of being featured here. I just glanced at some of the past years posts and was bowled over by the quality and freshness of the images.

Besides my work here as editor of Verve Photo, I am on the road photographing for part of the year. Last winter I was teaching in Cambodia and then went back to Burma to cover the dramatic changes taking place there. With all that, I plan to expand Verve Photo in the coming months. Stay tuned.

James Mackay April 5, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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“Generation Wave” outside Insein Prison. Rangoon. Burma 2012

James Mackay (b.1970 England) is a documentary photographer based in South East Asia and the UK. He studied at Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design in London and has worked extensively, often undercover, in Burma documenting humanitarian and political issues in the military controlled country. His long-term project on Burma’s political prisoners was selected as part of the Open Society Foundation’s ‘Moving Walls 19’ and has recently been published as a book ‘Abhaya – Burma’s Fearlessness’. His work has published in: The New York Times, The Independent, The Guardian, Le Monde, Vogue UK and Vogue Japan as well as by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. He is currently working in Burma as the country goes through historic political change.

About the Photograph:

“This photograph was taken outside the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon early in the morning of Friday 13th January 2012, Wearing t-shirts demanding the release of political prisoners, members (and colleagues of mine) of the once outlawed student organization, ‘Generation Wave’, line up waiting in anticipation for the release of said political prisoners, including more than 14 from their group jailed for their political activities. In a country where for decades most people have lived a life of fear, too afraid to speak out and where thousands have been jailed for their political beliefs, euphoria erupted in Rangoon on that historic day as prominent opposition leaders and political dissidents including the famed ‘88 Generation Students’ were freed from prison under a presidential amnesty.” (more…)

Geoffrey Hiller- Burma Update January 30, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Moulamain, Burma 2012

Editors Note: I’ll be in Burma till Feb 11th covering events as the country continues to evolve on a daily basis. This is my fifth visit to Burma and it’s day and night compared to six short months ago. There is a good chance I’ll be here longer. Photo-editors can contact me through my website.

Chien-Chi Chang October 29, 2011

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Burma, Land of Shadows: A production of Magnum in Motion with photographs and video by Chien-Chi Chang.

“The Burmese continue to live a real-life version of Animal Farm. When I posed as a tourist to make these pictures, there always seemed to be shadows following me. Big Brother has many little brothers.”

Chien-Chi Chang (b.1961, Taiwan) earned his BA from Soochow University in 1984 and an MS from Indiana University in 1990. He has worked for The Seattle Times (1991-1993) and The Baltimore Sun (1994-1995). Chang has documented the life of illegal immigrants in New York’s Chinatown, but he is also known for documenting his homeland of Taiwan. He won the W. Eugene Smith Fund for Humanistic Photography in 1999.  He lives in Taipei and in New York City and is a member of Magnum Photos

Geoffrey Hiller August 19, 2011

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Shwe In Bin Kyaung Monastery. Mandalay, Burma 2011

Editor’s Note: I’ll be taking off two weeks from Verve Photo. One of my prints is currently available on collect.give , a brilliant site founded by Kevin Miyazaki. It’s a place to collect contemporary photography and donate to worthy causes at the same time. I’ve pledged to donate 100% of the profits from my print sales to 100 Friends.org. Your fifty dollars goes to health and education projects in Burma/Myanmar. I recently returned from there and can personally vouch for the work that 100 Friends carries out.

About the Photograph:

“I made this image during one of my early morning walks in Mandalay, known for its large number of Buddhist monasteries. Entering the grounds of  Shwe In Bin Kyaung you feel as though you are crossing an imaginary line where the noise and chaos of the city disappear. The monks and novices wake up at 4 am to begin meditation and study. Besides their spiritual practice, the monks provide after-school classes, take in orphans, and do other social outreach in a country where the government provides no safety net for the poor. The monks serve as the conscience of the nation, since they are present everywhere, and are often at the forefront of political protest in Burma.”

The photography of Geoffrey Hiller has been published in magazines in the USA, Europe, and Japan including Geo, Newsweek, Mother Jones and the New York Times Magazine. He has completed dozens of photo essays in Asia, Latin America, Europe and West Africa and was on the staff of the Brazilian edition of National Geographic for two years. His award-winning multimedia projects about Vietnam, Eastern Europe, Ghana, Burma, and Brazil have earned recognition from Adobe, The Christian Science Monitor and USA Today. He has received grants from the Paul Allen Foundation, the California Arts Council, Regional Arts and Culture Council in Portland, Oregon, among others. Geoffrey was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2008-2009.

Quinn Ryan Mattingly December 1, 2010

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma.
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Brick Factory, Burma 2009

Quinn Ryan Mattingly (b. 1979, USA) is a freelance documentary and editorial photographer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. After finishing university in Ohio in 2003, he spent a year in Los Angeles, before venturing abroad to Prague, and finally to Asia, where he’s been for about six years. Apart from his personal documentary and freelance editorial work, Quinn is also the staff photographer for The Word, and English language magazine in Vietnam. In 2009 he attended the Foundry Photojournalism workshop in Manali, India, where he studied under Ami Vitale. His plans are likely to remain in Vietnam and South East Asia for the foreseeable future, as he finds the scenes, peoples and cultures incredibly fascinating.

About the Photograph:

“This image was made at a visit to an adobe brick factory that took up residence in several plastic covered structures on an isolated country road. The youngster, a very small framed boy of about ten, was tasked with pushing a large slicer through each slab of mud as it emerged from the mill, creating individual bricks. About every forty five seconds, he would muster some strength in his face, and force the sharp wires through the pressed mud. In between, a large grin would return to his face, in response to viewing his face on my LCD. This frame was made just before we parted ways. Seemingly being so comfortable with my camera’s presence, I requested this pose, sort of just to bring a little more joy into his workday. “

Verve Photo Celebrates Two Years Online March 22, 2010

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma.
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Salvador, Bahia Brazil 2002 by Geoffrey Hiller

What do the editors of National Geographic, Time Magazine, Mother Jones, The Wall Street Journal and other publications have in common? Hard to believe it, but I found out they regularly view Verve Photo searching for photographic talent and story ideas. When I started the Verve blog two years ago I had no idea there would be a need for such a showcase.  At that time I was struck by the emerging young photographers who were traveling to countries across the globe to pursue projects that mattered to them, from the political to the personal. And then there were the ones who remained closer to home, uncovering images no less powerful. During the past two years we have featured the work of  close to 400 photographers from almost every country in the world. The definition of ‘new breed’ has since expanded to include striking work that is not bounded by age, but rather by inquisitiveness and passion.

The tidal wave of documentary photography online seems to have only increased the need for an editorial filter. At the same time our viewers have steadily grown in number. Wherever I go it’s amazing to meet so many people who know about Verve, and more, who are excited and who find inspiration from the blog. This may be because Verve Photo is not an ‘aggregator of content’ but is more labor intensive, with a two-month lead time before each posting that involves discussion with each photographer.

I want to thank all of you who have generously shared your work, and helped create what has now become a community that includes regular viewers as well as picture editors, designers and curators. Those of you who appreciate the effort involved in putting this work together here at Verve Photo, please consider making a donation. That way we can all enjoy meeting more great photographers in the future.

Click here to donate

Claudia Wiens October 9, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma.
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Buddhist Nunnery in Sagaing, Burma 2008

Claudia Wiens (b. 1972, Germany) is a photojournalist based between Cairo and Istanbul, and she travels frequently to other parts of the world for her work. She contributes regularly to international publications such as Geo, BBC, Marie Claire UK, Colors among others. She is the author of two photography books, the recent one about Myanmar. In 2006 she received a project grant from Kulturwerk for her book project about daily life in Myanmar, which she finished in 2009. Her work often portrays unfamiliar aspects of the Middle East, and has frequently been featured in exhibitions in Germany, Egypt, and England. She speaks fluent German, English and Arabic, and is currently studying Turkish. She is represented by Getty Images/Global Assignments.

About the Photograph:

“I was working on my book project about daily life in various parts of Myanmar when I was lucky to find a nunnery in Sagaing where I could stay for as long as I liked. The nun Ma Singha was so kind to share her tiny room with me and introduced me to nunnery life. To my surprise she spoke fluent English and was very talkative and we had lots of giggles at night when we couldn’t sleep because of the humid heat. Life in the nunnery was not a serious matter as one could have expected, in contrary many of the nuns were very light-hearted. Early in the mornings and in the evenings they gathered in their nunnery temple for prayers. This was when I took this picture. The mantras and singing of their prayers always created a wonderful peaceful spiritual atmosphere. I am very grateful that they let me share these moments and gave me a chance to have an insight in their lives.”

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8.8.88- 8.8.08: Twenty Years On August 8, 2008

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, China, Tibet.
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Cyclone Nargis , Burma, 2008

Editors note: Today is both the anniversary of 8.8.88 as well as 8.8.08, the opening of the Beijing Olympics. Twenty years ago the Burma military junta killed tens of thousands of innocent Burmese on the streets of Rangoon. Unfortunately we are not in a position to name the photographer for the reasons above.

About the Photograph:

“Hhaing The Yu, 29, holds his face in his hand as rain falls on the decimated remains of his home in the Swhe Pyi Tha township, near Myanmar’s capital of Yangon (Rangoon), on Sunday, May 11th, 2008.  Cyclone Nargis struck southern Myanmar a week ago leaving millions homeless and has claimed up to 100,000 lives.  Experts have warned that Myanmar now runs the risk of a public health crisis that could take an even greater toll, as the country’s military government has been slow to allow in international aid.

Tibetan Monks. Kathmandu, Nepal

Brian Sokol was born in the late 1970′s in the American Midwest where he grew-up pouring over back issues of National Geographic.  At university he studied writing and education before heading overseas.  After being awarded a small grant from the University of Wisconsin, Brian purchased his first camera and 100 rolls of slide film a few days before heading to Nepal for a year that elapsed into a decade.  In July 2008 Brian moved from Kathmandu to New Delhi, India in to better cover South and Southeast Asia.  He work appears regularly in publications including The New York Times, Time, Stern, l’Espresso and Der Spiegel.  He is the recipient of National Geographic Magazine’s 2007 Eddie Adams grant and was recognized as one of PDN’s 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch in 2008.

About the Photograph:

A Tibetan monk, rosary beads hanging from his hand, covers his face while sitting in solidarity during a hunger strike at a Tibetan refugee camp in Kathmandu, Nepal on 18 March 2008.  Eleven hunger strikers have been fasting in the Nepalese capital since 11 p.m. on 16 March in protest against conditions in Tibet.


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