Burma: Visionary Photographers Train Cameras On Yangon’s Colonial Buildings

“There’s no trace of Hong Kong’s colonial past left in the city’s architecture – it’s all been torn down.” “The city has lost its historical architectural identity. Don’t let that happen to Yangon!” It’s stern warnings like these that came from a range of experts who attended the recent Yangon Heritage Trust’s International Conference.

The YHT put out a call out for help to save Yangon’s colonial buildings, and documentary photographers Jacques Maudy and Jimi Casaccia felt compelled to answer. The result is a stunning body of images of these buildings, soon to be published in a glossy high-quality publication titled Yangon, a City to Rescue.

Yangon, Burma. Photo from Jacques Maudy and Jimi Casaccia collection.
Yangon, Burma. Photo from Jacques Maudy and Jimi Casaccia collection.

Yangon is an Asian city on the cusp of rapid growth and change. Fast-built sharp, modern buildings might be sprouting-up quickly, but there’s no crowding-out of the stunning and intact architectural jewels that help tell the story of Burma’s colonial past. Wander down just about any street in the city of six million people and you’ll see them – from apartment buildings, to dramatic public structures.

Until now, Burma’s relative isolation from the rest of the globe has vicariously helped to preserve these stunning examples of grander times in the country’s history. Now, as the government makes tentative steps towards democracy, there’s a rush of economic interest in Burma from the outside world that almost threatens to overwhelm the country.

It’s a state of affairs that’s also echoed in the fate of the city’s colonial buildings, many of which have already been demolished because of their poor state of repair, or to simply to make way for the new. It didn’t take any convincing for Jimi Casaccia and Jacques Maudy to volunteer to help the YHT tell the story of Burma’s proud past. Working on the cusp of Burma’s dramatic monsoon season, they managed to capture vivid images of Yangon’s colonial buildings in a way that’s never been seen before. In the process, the resulting photographs give the outside world a tantalising glimpse of the country and its proud people, who are also experiencing rapid change.

Jacques and Jimi have documented Yangon’s colonial buildings in a comprehensive suite of awe-inspiring images that have ever been produced of Yangon’s colonial buildings. Their photographs allow the majesty of these buildings to speak for themselves, and “are so vital that you’ll literally gasp at the majestic height buildings like the High Court,” claims the YHT.

Additionally, viewers will also be able to see the majesty of the historic Secretariat building – the main seat of government in Burma until quite recently. Few civilians have ever been allowed inside this stunning building since the assassination of General Aung San – Aung San Sui Kyi’s father.

Jacques and Jimi’s photographs have already generated a huge amount of excitement when they were appropriately exhibited on the walls of Yangon’s historic Strand Hotel during the May/June YHT International Conference. These images also helped in part to draw the government’s attention to the vast architectural wealth that it possesses. As the conference concluded, the government announced that it would withdraw demolition permits on a number of historic buildings in the city while the Trust mapped the city’s most important buildings that must be saved.

Jacques and Jimi sayd they hope the book will draw interest from international donors who are interested in investing in these historical buildings and in the process help the Burmese people save their architectural history, and are seeking financing to bring this book to print.

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