What Might Have Happened


8 Polymer Photo Gravures with images from Myanmar



By Lukas Birk

8 Polymer Photo Gravures on 100% cotton rag paper.
Edition 8 only 3 available
In hand made folder

Intro By Lukas: It was 2013 when I decided to venture out to the newly opened Myanmar (Burma); I had not been there since 2002. My aim was to find private and studio photographs starting from the times when Burmese professionals and amateurs took photography back from the colonial hand. Through many interviews and findings in the houses of history keepers and secondhand dealers, I gathered a collection of roughly 10.000 printed photographs, negatives, and photo albums dating back to 1900. Photographic history after colonial image-making, and especially after independence in 1948, is largely unrecorded. Since Myanmar has been under strict military rule for the last 60 years, limited information has flowed in and out of the country, especially about the lives of its people. The first Burmese-run photo studios were opened around the teens and ‘20s of the last century; these photographers were mostly the former apprentices of foreign photographers. Early on, painted backdrops of exotic scenes or house interiors were still very popular for photo studios to use, a style introduced by colonial photographers and widely used during that time throughout the world. The practice of using painted backdrops disappeared in Myanmar soon after independence in the 1950s, though.

The images selected for this portfolio set where taken by professional photographers in Rangoon and Mandalay between 1910 and 1970. I started to imagine who these people were and what the reason for getting this specific image taken might have been, as I have no information about any of the images or the circumstances in which they were taken. The more time I spent with each image, the more complex and outrageous each story became. I tried to imagine the political context and period the country was in at the time. What fascinates me, and that goes for every place in the world, is that no matter what political condition or bureaucratic structure a country is in, most professions continue, as people simply have to live and survive; this goes for photography as well. Finally, I tried to condense my fantasy into a title that now accompanies each image as a form of alternative history.