An Evening in Burma/Myanmar (and Turner’s Boatyard!)

The evening of 27th April saw a large number of members thoroughly entertained and mesmerised by a wonderful presentation by Colin New. The first half of the evening consisted of images taken on a recent visit to Burma (or Myanmar as it likes to be known now). Colin started by providing a short potted history of the country to give some perspective to the talk and photographs. The sequence of images started in Rangoon and then on the train which takes a circular route in Rangoon. There was some wonderful examples of street photography giving a vivid picture of the city and its people. Quickly the focus moved to temples with amazing golden stupas (Buddhist religious towers). Before long we were whisked away into the countryside where roads became crude and there was a way of life which did not seem to have changed in generations. Throughout the whole presentation there were photographs with rich and vibrant colours, dramatic scenes at dawn and dusk, beautiful portraits and evocative images of a completely different way of life. Colin supplemented these images with a fascination, thoughtful and sometimes humorous commentary that kept everyone fully engaged. It really was two “evenings” in one – a glorious sequence of photographs and a fascinating travelogue.

In the break half way through the evening there was an opportunity to look at some of Colin’s prints from the Burma/Myanmar trip at close quarters and comment on their quality. The second half of Colin’s talk itself consisted of two parts. The first was a real eye-opener. He called it “Turner’s Boatyard” and it consisted of just 8 images which were wonderful evocations of landscapes in the style of Turner’s oil paintings. Well that’s how it seemed until he told us they were simply close-up photographs of the side of a wooden boat that that was being sanded down ready for painting. It is impossible in words to describe how effective these images were and the whole room was truly amazed at how one could pick out trees, lakes, the sea, hills, the horizon – in fact every component of an impressionistic landscape – when in actual fact it was just two planks of wood. Colin had not processed the images at all so no trickery was involved. Once you knew that it was sanded down wood it was easy to see the reality but your mind still wanted it to be a Turner landscape. Truly unique. If you would like to see them yourself, and I strongly urge you to do so, then visit Colin’s website here. The final section of the evening was just as fascinating. By various means Colin acquired an old photograph album with portrait images from the early days of photography, starting in about 1860 and covering approximately 50 years. He, and no-one else, knew the subjects of the portraits but Colin’s idea was to try and weave a story around the images. Just one photograph of a boy set off the story and Colin added some words to each of the old photographs. It became a poignant story of the effects of the First World War on a family and was an incredibly effective demonstration of the power of words and images working together. It may have been fiction but it was riveting and everyone found it moving.

An evening that will not be forgotten by all who attended. I urge you to visit Colin’s website to sample his work by clicking here.


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