Pho­tog­ra­pher ex­am­ines nu­dity, ed­u­ca­tion in ‘Iden­tity of Fear’

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - NYO ME ny­ome@mm­times.com

WHAT is Myan­mar afraid of? The ques­tion frames Mayco Naing’s solo ex­hi­bi­tion Iden­tity of Fear at New Zero Art Space, open­ing to­day and run­ning through De­cem­ber 11.

Through two se­ries en­ti­tled “Free­dom from Fear” and “Hu­man­ity, Iden­tity & Nu­dity”, the pho­tog­ra­pher says she aimed to re­flect the zeit­geist of the gen­er­a­tion born around the 1988 Revo­lu­tion – a group of 20- and 30-year-olds who grew up in an age of con­ser­va­tive val­ues, low ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards and volatile dic­ta­tor­ship.

Hav­ing stud­ied in France on be­half of a French In­sti­tute res­i­dency schol­ar­ship, Mayco Naing re­turned in 2014 with four months of Western ed­u­ca­tion un­der her belt. That’s when she re­alised that the theme of fear she had no­ticed in her gen­er­a­tion was tied to their col­lec­tive up­bring­ing.

“When I came back, I wanted to alarm the pub­lic – ahead of the Novem­ber 2015 elec­tion – that we needed to change the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,” the 32-year-old pho­tog­ra­pher said. “I de­cided to do a pho­tog­ra­phy se­ries to re­flect my gen­er­a­tion’s ex­pe­ri­ences.”

The sub­jects, all mod­els around her age, in­clude a brand man­ager who does not use his doc­toral de­gree and a singer who does not use a de­gree he spent seven years earn­ing at the Myan­mar Mar­itime Univer­sity.

Such sub­jects, pic­tured un­der­wa­ter in a bath­tub for the ex­hi­bi­tion, em­body the poor ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences she feels her gen­er­a­tion has suf­fered.

“We try to get pro­fes­sional de­grees, but many can­not use them. Some at­tend the Myan­mar Mar­itime Univer­sity be­cause a sailor’s salary is [high],” she said. “But then they re­alise that they hate spend­ing all their lives on the ships.

“Peo­ple need to con­sider their own pas­sions be­fore blindly choos­ing a pro­fes­sion. Our cur­rent ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem does not en­cour­age such re­flec­tion.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion will also in­clude a nude pho­tog­ra­phy se­ries that aims to con­front the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women’s bod­ies. Mayco Naing said Myan­mar’s cul­ture teaches women to think of their bod­ies as dirty and sin­ful.

“Even though we are born pure, we are taught shame,” she said. “We be­come more fear­ful due to the dif­fer­ent body we are born with. But whether a body curves beau­ti­fully or not, it is not a dirty thing.”

Though find­ing mod­els will­ing to pose nude was a chal­lenge, the am­bi­tious pho­tog­ra­pher man­aged to fin­ish the se­ries and show it at the French In­sti­tute in 2015. That show, how­ever, was cen­sored af­ter just one day.

“I hate the con­cept that it is dirty to see a naked woman,” she said. “I would like to show that it is not dirty – peo­ple are shy to see the breast of a woman, but it is noth­ing more than just a part of the body.”

To re­in­force her point, many of the images show less-taboo body parts, such as a neck or a back. Fel­low pho­tog­ra­pher Kyi Myint said the re­sult is a fresh take on a mis­un­der­stood art form.

“Nude pho­tog­ra­phy is not pornog­ra­phy,” he said. “It is not about sex. It is about art.”

Iden­tity of Fear is Mayco Naing’s first solo show, though she has ex­hib­ited seven shows around the world, in­clud­ing in France and Thai­land. She said she nor­mally aims for two to four se­ries per year as per­sonal projects.

Visit New Zero Art Space at United Condo No 202 on Ah Lan Pya Pagoda Road to see the show.

Photo: Nyo Me

Mayco Naing laughs at New Zero Art Space be­side one of the pho­tos in her Iden­tity of Fear ex­hi­bi­tion, which opens to­day.

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