This year's Yangon Photo Festival was remarkable and inspiring in so many ways, but one of the most significant ways was that the exhibitions were presented in a public park without any censorship!
Last year Myanmar underwent a massive political shift when a civilian president was democratically elected for the first time in over fifty years. Aung Sun Suu Kyi, who could not legally run for the seat, was appointed State Counsellor of Myanmar following the presidential election of her proxy, Htin Kyaw.
Under the previous government, censorship was a major obstacle for events like this. Although there are still human rights concerns in Myanmar under Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the new government seems to uphold the freedom of speech, even when that speech highlights some of the ongoing problems in the country.
In addition to the exhibitions in Mahabandula Park, YPF hosted two public outdoor screenings of photo stories shot by local photographers. In previous years, censorship meant that screenings had to take place in private galleries. The public screenings greatly increased the potential impact of the images and were extremely well attended.
The photo stories this year covered a number of social and political issues, including child labour, domestic violence, and internally displaced persons in Kachin State. Projecting these stories in a park offered a unique opportunity to raise awareness and to address these issues in a public space.
Aung San Suu Kyi showed her support for the photo festival's work by speaking at the awards night and sitting on the jury.