As many of of you know, Myanmar (Burma to some – though incorrect – see “*” for more information) is my all time favorite location for travel photography. The imagery there is stunning, in no small part due to the deeply rooted culture that still exists, void of most modern “Western” cultural influences. There are no Malls (in the western sense) instead they have huge open air markets where local goods are sold, there is no Kardashian’s on billboards or magazines (a wonderful thing) and there are no McDonalds, Starbucks or KFC’s on every corner……… oops, looks like I spoke too soon.
KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is now the first American fast food restaurant to open in Myanmar breaking the floodgates for all the “Yum Brands” to follow and all the other mega fast food corporations that will inevitably take root. It is already happened in Thailand (Myanmar’s neighbor) at a ferocious pace. It is going to spread fast and furious turning my cultural paradise (at least from a photography standpoint) into another destination where one must always be vigilant just to keep 7-11 signs out of every photograph.
As Western icons like fast food take hold in an area, so too do all the western trappings that go with it. Clothing styles, music, hollywood and endless marketing seep into the culture. From a travel photographer’s standpoint this makes it very hard to photograph a culture in an unadulterated way. When the kids at temple have P-Diddy t-shirts on and the seamstress weaving silk blouses has a Pizza Hut box and a Starbucks cup on the table beside her, it really robs the image of it’s power (unless you are doing an editorial on change I suppose). Imagine trying to shoot the Shwedagon Pagoda with a McDonalds billboard on the road in front of you. Just look at this image of KFC dominating an entire street in China.
I’ve said it before many times: “The world is becoming a homogeneous place,,, and I don’t like it”.
If you want a chance to to see Myanmar and it’s wonderful people and culture before Westernization floods the country: check out my 2016 Myanmar Photography Tour before it’s too late. Once change occurs there is no going back.
* Burma is the name given to the country by the British during their imperialist occupation of Myanmar. Historically the land has been Myanmar. The name was given because the largest sect within the country were known as “Burmese” and thus they named the country such.
The government officially changed the name back to it’s original/proper name in 1989. Because western governments (specifically the U.S.A, do not like the ruling government they basically ignore the change saying that they knew better what the populus prefered – as such most westerners are ignorant of the name’s history.
All Burmese whom I asked face to face said they use “Myanmar” as the country’s name, sometimes Burmese in reference to their culture or heritage. Its my opinion that history and the county’s population know better than our government what they should be called.
*** header image from bbc.com