Monday, 17 June 2013

POV: The Inle Lake Fishermen Are So Tired!

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I traveled to Myanmar (Burma) twice in 2001 and 2002. At that time, it was still very much "off the grid of mass tourism", and few tourists could be seen...either put off by the comparatively onerous entry requirements (and restrictive travel itineraries) or by their unwillingness to support the military junta, directly or indirectly. When I was in this lovely country, there was no internet as such (just a few approved businesses had it), no mobile telephony...but few cared. Burma and its people more than made up for these little inconveniences.

Recently the country has opened up and changed in many ways. Aung San Suu Ky was released from her house confinement, and her party won most of the seats in the lower parliament. Tourists are flocking in to the country as if these's no tomorrow...hotels are overbooked...flights are full and groups of Western and Asian tourists are spending time and hard currency to the benefit of the local Burmese.

This opening up has generated a lot of travel images by photographers...either on professional websites, or on social media. However, I haven't seen much of new approaches or fresh angles.

The photograph (above) of the Inle Lake fisherman I made in 2001 was from a pre-arranged photo shoot during which a few local fishermen would oar their boats not far from the hotel, and I'd photograph them from another rowing boat in the middle of the lake.

Most of what I see nowadays are photographs of for-hire fishermen photographed near the hotels' wharfs where the water is placid and calm...ideal for reflections and other cute stuff.

C'mon photographers...you can do better than that now. Photographs of the for hire fishermen of Inle Lake are a dime a dozen....and they all look alike. Who will buy them? Think of something else...another venue...go to the fishermen villages...produce a photo essay or an audio slideshow of their lives...be inventive and creative.

I've photographed the Inle Lake fishermen at dusk 12 years ago...12 years ago, and you're still photographing the same stuff?

You want ideas? Look at Sim Chi Yin's The Water Seller and Anthony Pond's The Ring Train of Yangon.