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Selma Fernandez Richter February 16, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Myanmar, United States.
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Planet Hook beneath the flag of the Karen State, Saint Paul, MN, 2012

Selma Fernandez Richter  (b. 1974, Mexico) has been a photographer since 2001. She works in both the United States and Mexico. Selma spent the first ten years of her professional career in Monterrey, Mexico´s most industrial city, where she photographed people in the business community and editorial assignments for Time-Expansion Editorial Group, Financial Times Deutschland, Bloomberg Businessweek and CNN Mexico, among others.Three years ago, Selma moved away from Mexico and started photographing her ongoing project “The Ache for Home” about the refugee communities in Minnesota, while experiencing her own adaptation process to a new context. She is currently based in Minneapolis.

About the Photograph:

“This image is part of my ongoing project The Ache for Home about the refugee communities in Minnesota. The families and individuals that I photograph primarily come from Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea and Somalia. I am interested in photographing the first months and years in their new context. I observe them improve language skills, search to find jobs that match their specific abilities, the struggles of adapting to a cold Minnesota winter, and their efforts to maintain a cultural identity that is familiar and resonates. Above all, I have come to know the sacrifices parents make for their children and the dreams and hopes they hold dear for the next generation. In this picture, Planet Hook is in his living room beneath the flag of the Karen State. Planet was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. His parents are from the Karen ethnic group in Burma and because of persecution, they fled the country in 1997. In 2010, the family resettled in Minnesota.”


Geoffrey Hiller/ Daybreak in Myanmar Book Launch December 11, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Editor’s note: I’ll be out of the country this January in Myanmar and will resume showcasing new photographers on February 2, 2015. Hard to believe that Verve Photo has featured close to 1,000 photographers from over 80 countries during the past seven years. Happy New Year to all of you out there!

Listening to a transistor radio in a Yangon tea shop, Myanmar 2013

These images are from my new book Daybreak in Myanmar. I’ve returned to Burma several times since my first trip in 1987. The country was frozen in time until a few years ago when the government announced a democratic opening. Most of the visible economic and social changes have occurred in Yangon, but in the villages change is slower. On-going trouble in the border areas with ethnic minorities (including the Rohingya) continues to flare. The Burmese people know that there is still a lot of political uncertainty going forward.

Students near the university, Yangon 2012

The book is 192 pages with 170 color photographs printed on 157 gsm matte art paper. Trim size is 18.5 x 25.5 cm. It’s sequenced by time of day showing Burmese daily rhythms and includes six short interviews with leading Burmese writers and activists by UK journalist Francis Wade. Order a copy of the book here $29.95 + shipping. Thanks for supporting this project. By doing so you are supporting documentary photography and all of the work that has gone into creating Verve Photo.

River shrine, Hpa-an 2000

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

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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

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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.


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

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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.


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