Through eyes

Thuma Col­lec­tive aims to en­cour­age more Myan­mar women to tell sto­ries through pho­tog­ra­phy

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NANDAR AUNG

MYAN­MAR’s young me­dia in­dus­try has a prob­lem. It’s not a unique prob­lem, but a prob­lem nonethe­less. It is dom­i­nated by men. The Myan­mar Press Coun­cil es­ti­mates that be­tween just 5 and 10 per­cent of pho­to­jour­nal­ists in Myan­mar are women, mean­ing the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of sto­ries are re­ported through the eyes of men.

Seven women sto­ry­tellers are on a mis­sion to change that. This Fri­day sees the launch of Thuma Col­lec­tive, a woman based pho­tog­ra­phy group which aims to bring a fe­male voice to the male dom­i­nated me­dia land­scape.

“The pho­tog­ra­phy in­dus­try here and all over the world is dom­i­nated by men,” said Yu Yu Myint Than, a free­lance pho­to­jour­nal­ist and one of the founders of Thuma Col­lec­tive.

“Women have dif­fer­ent views, sen­si­tiv­i­ties and per­spec­tives in sto­ry­telling to men. We want to say that we are ready to tell sto­ries through women’s eyes.”

Thuma Col­lec­tive - named after the Burmese fe­male pro­noun for her – was born out of the Women Pho­tog­ra­phers Club in which mem­bers would meet reg­u­larly to dis­cuss their ex­pe­ri­ences as women pho­tog­ra­phers in Myan­mar.

While in­for­ma­tion shar­ing will also be an in­te­gral part of Thuma Col­lec­tive, the group aims to take on a more ac­tive role in de­vel­op­ing a woman’s voice on Myan­mar so­cial is­sues through in-depth photo es­says.

“That was the ini­tial idea of Thuma Col­lec­tive - to cre­ate a safe plat­form for women pho­tog­ra­phers to em­power each other,” says 28-year-old Tin Htet Paing, a found­ing mem­ber of Thuma and a re­porter for Ir­rawaddy News English.

“The most pos­i­tive ad­van­tage of be­ing a woman pho­tog­ra­pher is hav­ing sen­si­tiv­ity. Nat­u­rally, women and men do feel and see things dif­fer­ently. Some­times, fe­male pho­tog­ra­phers have eas­ier ac­cess when ap­proach­ing vul­ner­a­ble is­sues or sub­jects. How­ever... I per­son­ally think pho­tog­ra­phy doesn’t have enough rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women and women’s voices. The gen­uine in­ten­tion of cre­at­ing Thuma Col­lec­tive, a women-ex­clu­sive plat­form, is to raise more di­verse voices and fill a gap, rather than cre­at­ing a gen­der di­vide.”

Even though the qual­ity and num­ber of pho­to­jour­nal­ists in Myan­mar has in­creased in re­cent years there is lack of long-form sto­ry­telling in Myan­mar, says Yu Yu Myint Than., a gap which Thuma Col­lec­tive aims to fill.

“Most pho­tog­ra­phers are used to fo­cus­ing on a protest only dur­ing the protest. For ex­am­ple, they take pho­tos dur­ing the event but don’t try to learn more about why it is hap­pen­ing and what the con­se­quences are,” she said.

Thu­mar Col­lec­tive has al­ready started work­ing on their first ma­jor photo ex­hibit which will go on show to the public in March next year.

The launch on Fri­day will see the show­cas­ing of works from all seven mem­bers who will also be shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences in mak­ing the group.

“I want women who are in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy to have the courage to tell more sto­ries in the fu­ture,” said Yu Yu Myint Than.

Photo: Tin Htet Paing

The 67th Myan­mar In­de­pen­dence Day fun fair held in Yan­gon.

Photo: Yu Yu Myint Than

A pho­to­graph ti­tled ‘I’ve Never Told You Be­fore.’

Photo: Tin Htet Paing.

A young boy work­ing at a jetty in Yan­gon poses for a por­trait.

Photo: Yu Yu Myint Than

A pho­to­graph ti­tled ‘I’ve Never Told You Be­fore.’

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