A LITTLE FLIGHT READING
THIS substantial book of more than 200 pictures, released this month, has a subtitle of New Images from the Streets of Rangoon. The use of the supplanted names Burma and Rangoon is a telling device. The country now known as Myanmar, and its capital, Yangon, are changing so quickly that even images shot two years ago can achieve instant archival status. A former architect turned film-set designer, Kim Buddee, visited Myanmar in 2011 and 2012 and says he was ‘‘alarmed’’ that Yangon was ‘‘under threat of extinction by
KIM BUDDEE redevelopment and modernisation’’. Buddee, an Australian who has worked on films such as Lantana, and television series The Block and Celebrity Apprentice, decided to take ‘‘snapshots’’ of ‘‘a moment in time’’ before Yangon’s buildings were razed to make way for sky- scrapers and shopping malls. He has captured streetscapes of derelict red-brick edifices with colonial iron lace and ornamented flourishes, such as the offices of the Burma Railways Company, now earmarked for conversion into a five-star hotel at the centre of a mixed-use residential and commercial precinct. There are scarlet-robed monks and golden pagodas, barbed-wire fences and barricades, the rusted hulks of cars and trucks on potholed streets. Trishaw drivers, thongs tossed aside and cigarettes lit, wait patiently for customers.
Buddee has included a list of detailed commentary-style captions at the back of the book and ‘‘crystal ball’’ notes on Yangon’s rapid emergence from isolation. He writes of new freeways circling the city, and delta farmlands being absorbed into urban sprawl. The message is clear — better go now.
Longboats at Dalah on the Yangon River