Photographing the Young Monks of Myanmar

After picking up my visa and exchanging some U.S. dollars for kyat I stepped out of the airport into the steam that is Yangon, Myanmar, during the monsoon season. A time of year good for photographers to avoid those unsightly tourists that invade a viewfinder during picture taking or worse not seen until the proofs appear on screen.

No time for rest after fourteen hours in the air. "We must get there while they are still eating," M.M., my guide, tells me. Off we go in a waiting car manned by a driver that seems to have the Burmese version of Google maps imprinted on his occipital cortex.

As we snake our way down crowded streets I grab my camera bag and ready my D4 and D800 with 2.8s. We get to the monastery in a matter of minutes. "We need to hurry," I hear from the front seat as we pull in.

I jump out and move up the walkway as my lenses fog from the humidity. Then there they were.

2015-01-03-21.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

Thus I began photographing the Novice Monks of Myanmar.

2015-01-02-1.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

Myanmar is a country a bit larger than France in Southeast Asia. Around ninety percent of its people are devoutly Theravada Buddhists. Buddhist monastic schools educate a large segment of the country's young men in approximately one-thousand-five-hundred monastic schools. Many of these boys would receive no education without these schools. Most of these boys cannot afford the fees required to attend state supported schools. Many of these boys are homeless.

2015-01-02-13.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

I spent two weeks photographing these young men in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and Nyaungshwe. I was given the freedom to photograph them as I pleased.

2015-01-02-2.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-03-22.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-03-23.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-02-10.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-03-24.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-02-RecliningBuddha.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-02-5.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

2015-01-02-6.jpg Photograph by Stephen Wallace

I could not have taken these photographs without the help of Mya Min Din (M.M.) of Santa Rosa Travels and Tours of Yangon, Myanmar. Simply the best guide ever.

Also a special thanks to Gukyaun Free Monastic Education Center, Old Bagan, Myanmar.

Stephen Wallace, M.D., J.D. Oceanside, California