Seven local photographers – all women – have come together to share their passion and creativity in the form of a photography collective.

Thuma (Burmese for ‘she’) Collective looks set to produce some groundbreaking work from new perspectives and raise the quality and scope of an already healthy Yangon photography scene.

At the Thuma Collective launch held at Myanmar Deitta on Friday October 13th, the women took the time to explain to the huge crowd who had gathered for the event about how the collective came about, their inspirations and future plans.

A driving force behind the collective is Yu Yu Myint Than. Her love of photography came about while studying abroad and she has since won a number of international scholarships and exhibited at local and international exhibitions and major photo festivals. She is currently a Magnum Foundation photography fellow, focusing on long-term projects about domestic violence and human trafficking across the Myanmar-China border.

“I found a group of women who were passionate about photography as hobbyists so I wanted to gather them,” she said.

Another member of Thuma Collective, Khin Kyi Htet, uses her photography to tell a very personal story about her childhood. Her images are strikingly honest and based around themes everyone can relate to but are rarely brave enough to share:

“My photography is a personal journey about my childhood – sometimes I feel hatred and sometimes I feel nostalgia,” noted Khin.

Khin Zarchi Latt says she learned photography through self-study and further deepened her knowledge and developed her style while attending workshops. Now, topics she focuses on include children from marginalised communities and the road workers we often see toiling along country roads.

Nyo Me is a photographer whose work focuses on peoples’ lifestyles. She is working on creating a series of environmental portraits called Rangoonites.

Rita Khin was inspired by her involvement with Yangon Photo Festival. Her work focuses on LGBT, gender and women’s issues and she is striving to use her photography to document identity issues of transgender men in Myanmar society.

“My photos are a way to interpret my feelings.”

With a background in social work, Shwe Wutt Hmon chooses to focus her work on topics such as the community of sex workers in Yangon. Like the other members of Thuma Collective, she finds photography as an outlet of self-expression:

“Photography became a way to express who I am and what I stand for.”

Tin Htet Paing is a journalist at the Irrawaddy and has been learning how to present a story through her photography. The subjects she finds herself coming back to again and again are the youth who spend their lives in online gaming shops of her neighbourhood. Intrigued by their ‘addiction’ and the hold online gaming has on their lives, she has spent months gaining their trust to be able to photograph them in various stages of their lives at these all-night gaming shops where they hang out often without the consent or knowledge of their families.

Evidently, this is a group of women working hard to expose, through beautiful and thoughtful images, the themes and issues not commonly discussed and that are difficult to address in most parts of Myanmar society.

Their projects are still ongoing and developing through Thuma Collective’s self-directed efforts with artist talks, photo walks and workshops. The women intend to spend the coming months continuing and finalizing their respective photography series and preparing for a collective exhibition which they aim to hold at Myanmar Deitta next summer.

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