Reading Time: 3 minutes
Each year, British Log of Photography presents the Ones To Watch – a selection of 20 emerging image-makers, selected from a list of nearly 450 nominations. Collectively, they provide a window into where picture taking is heading, at least within the eyes of the curators, editors, agents, festival producers plus photographers we invited in order to nominate. Throughout the next couple weeks, we will be sharing profiles from the 20 photographers, originally published within the latest issue of BJP, delivered direct with an 1854 Subscription .
Suffering from the lifelong health condition, the Burmese artist responds to her encounters during the pandemic, documenting previous traumas by digitally checking her scars
“I have to create plus stay alive, ” says 35-year-old Shwe Wutt Hmon. Suffering from the lifelong health condition angiolipomas – a rare kind of lipoma – Shwe was operated on five occasions before she was 30. The condition causes chronic back pain and requires regular hospital visits for COMPUTERTOMOGRAFIE scans. However , since the creation of Covid-19 in March 2020, she has been unable to see a doctor. Instead, the photographer offers remained in her apartment, often incapable of leaving her bed due to the pain.
I Do Skip Hospital Visit responds to her experiences during the pandemic, documenting past trauma by digitally scanning her scars and repurposing COMPUTERTOMOGRAFIE scan images from previous medical procedures. Shwe presents these types of alongside images of rotting flowers and old family members photographs. Fragile and wilted, the flowers are a metaphor for her experience during the outbreak: the result of her reluctance to look out and buy fresh bouquets in fear of catching herpes. “[They] speak out loud with my condition of not being able to visit the hospital plus suffering more pain plus frustration as a result, ” the lady says.
The project addresses themes running through Shwe’s practice more broadly: identity, human relationships, feminism and mental wellness. Born and raised within Yangon – the former funds of Myanmar – Shwe began pursuing photography being a career four years ago. For the decade prior, she proved helpful as a researcher for UN agencies and NGOs. “I grew up under a repressive army regime, in a society that is historically closed and conservative, ” she says. “Life inside Myanmar is much worse than the outside world can imagine, with unbearable human rights violations and atrocities. ”
Emmeline Yong, co-founder and director associated with Objectifs, a visual artistry space in Singapore, selected Shwe. “[Her] work is deeply individual. She is uncomfortable with the unequal power dynamics of a photographer-subject relationship, and this has resulted in a collaborative and earnest approach, ” says Yong. “Despite the political environment and lockdowns in Myanmar, Shwe has continued to make use of photography to tackle physical, emotional and mental issues. ”
Photography and politics were ever-present in Shwe’s childhood; both her parents worked as city servants, and her father was the head of digital photography at the Ministry of Farming. “I never directly learned photography from him, nevertheless I reflect on my childhood, I got vivid memories of my father’s lab, ” states Shwe. During her the child years, the photographer spent considerable time with her grandfather, a junior officer to General Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi. “I learned many tales about the Burmese independence movement from him, and I imagine that’s one of the reasons I grew to become a development worker, ” she reflects.
In 2017, Shwe started to feel frustrated with her profession. She enrolled in the particular Angkor Photo Festival course, where she was mentored by Antoine d’Agata and Sohrab Hura. “I never went back to my full-time job, ” she says. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. ” That same year, she joined the particular Thuma Collective, an all-female group of photographers who set up workshops and artist speaks. Thuma means ‘she’ in Burmese, and the group is designed to nurture a secure and supportive space meant for female photographers in Myanmar.
Four many years on, Shwe’s work is usually recognised by initiatives such as Photo Kathmandu’s South Asian countries Incubator and World Push Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass. She continues to collaborate along with NGOs as a photographer and educator. But , having worked within the sector for so long, her personal practice naturally leans towards exploring social plus political stories too.