Monday, July 24, 2017

Capturing Myanmar’s ‘essence’

After journeying across 138 countries, Italian photographer Luca Bracali has found himself in Yangon to present his newest photo exhibit, Myanmar: The True Essence.

Luca Bracali at work. Photo - lucabracali.itLuca Bracali at work. Photo -

The exhibition – running until Sunday at KZL Art Gallery – was organised by Italian ambassador Pier Giorgio Aliberti and the Italian Embassy as part of their new line-up of “Italy in Myanmar 2017” cultural events. 

A sports reporter turned photographer, Bracali first became aware of Myanmar’s boundless beauty and complicated history through a photo series by veteran photographer Steve McCurry who became famous for his striking 1984 photo called Afghan Girl.

Bracali saw an exhibit of McCurry’s in Italy a few years back and was prompted to undertake his own sojourn to the Golden Land.

“After visiting Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, which really fascinated me, I decide to keep the best for last,” Bracali told Weekend.

“So in January 2015, I came to Myanmar and after 15 days of intensive shooting I decided to come back again in June of the same year to complete my story, visiting an enchanting Chin tribe.”

The 52-year-old photographer spent three weeks working on site, taking photographs throughout different parts of the country.

Besides visiting historically and culturally important areas such as the temples of Bagan, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo pagoda and the ruins of Mrauk U, Bracali also travelled to the more far flung destinations.

He visited Pindaya and Heho in Shan State, Minkun ruins in Sagaing Region and even travelled through Kayah State.

In his 22 days of travel, Bracali expressed that he had hardly experienced – among the 138 countries he had visited – a country as friendly as Myanmar.

From sandalwood-scented temples to rustic areas, and saffron ascetics to dispersed tribes, there was never a truly bad time – just the occasional betel-stained red smile and welcoming people, he said.

However, Bracali did convey his frustration and curiosity with the way Myanmar tradition mingles with technological modernity.

“I feel like I’ve had the chance to capture the spirit of a country’s artistic and cultural heritage but that is rapidly changing,” he said. “The only thing that disappointed me was the intensive use of cell phones as an epidemic, with pilgrims and monks busily taking selfies in front of Buddha statues. That’s such a shame to me as a matter of religious respect.”

In addition to the exhibit, Bracali was also invited to share his photography as part of a master class with the Myanmar Photographic Society on May 13.

Bracali will display his own work to students and give instruction and critique on the class’s photo projects.


Myanmar: The True Essence photo exhibition will be free of charge and will open 9:30am to 5:30pm until Sunday at KZL Art Gallery. Photobooks will also be available for purchase.