There are two reasons people travel. The first is to see and experience something new, the other is to get away to see and experience something old.
In the spring of 1995 I photographed a young boy in Rangoon named Lwin Aung as he kneeled before a monk and had his head shaved. The ceremony was called “Shin Bu” in which he mystically transformed into a life of spirituality and “became Buddha." In that moment I crossed into another place and found the key to other worlds. I was no longer an outsider. Burma is an unpolished jewel in Asia that has long been in flux between freedom and suppression, between colonialism and juntas, between an unsettled past and an uncertain future. It is a country whose very name continues to be debated after the military changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989.
The last time I spoke with my friend Albert Normandin, he had just finished his fifteenth trip to that magical place, living his obsession photographing Myanmar. Twelve years ago I got a call from Albert asking about Burma, and as he rattled off a list of half a dozen other countries he was considering for his first trip to Asia, I cut him short. "Albert, go to Burma! You will love it. There's no place like it. It will change your life. Forever." Forever—photographers are always looking for it, looking for the places in the heart, the shadows, the light, the dust, and the unknown pieces of life around a corner. Moments glimpsed through a doorway, along a road, down an empty street, or in a cloistered monastery. Looking for the gesture of a hand, the glint of a young girl's eyes, birds sitting on a wire, the shy smile of a child or the laughter of a young monk, and all the mysteries of life as they catch the fire of the sun burning the sky at the end of a day. I made these dozen images in my own first trip to Burma, a trip all too short but one which changed my life forever.