Teza Soe

Phd Student

Daw Kha Yah & A Moe. From the series Do it like a Woman © Teza Soe

Redefining feminism in Myanmar ; Documentary Photography as An Activist Tool

My research explores key issues pertinent to the emancipation of women through photography. It discusses the issues that many Myanmar women artists face in their endeavor to live fulfilling and independent lives under a very conservative and paternalistic society. My experience as a young girl growing up in Myanmar, my relationship to the country, our culture and the experiences and stories of Myanmar women who participated in my research are all considered as inspiring material, which focus the topic under discussion. The ethnographic research techniques such as observation and in-depth interviews with Myanmar women photographers, incorporation with my experience as a Myanmar woman enriched the research findings and together they offer a rare account of Myanmar women’s identity, narrative and representations.   

In essence the research provides a new way to investigate women’s situations in Myanmar using photography. As a Myanmar woman myself, I position myself as both observer and participant in this research and I confront my personal memory and experience of growing up in Myanmar with the stories of many Myanmar women that I met and interviewed throughout the research. I approach the research using feminist ethnography and photography as principle methods of witnessing, of storytelling and as reflections of lasting truth. Feminism is the key method here in causing a new interpretation and sense of possibility about life and female expression in Myanmar.

These research steps led me to produce a self-portrait series along with a documentary project where I photograph Myanmar women doing men’s jobs which are deemed unsuitable according to Myanmar culture, as one they provide a critical commentary on the societal expectations that most women experience growing up in Myanmar. The practice entwines with the thesis and together they offer unique perspective and foreground stories of Myanmar women that have never been before told. The written thesis supports the creative component of the research and also provides an understanding of the use of photography in this research, which is a powerfully effective method in bringing about change especially in the thinking of both men and women who live in Myanmar.

Soe’s research was supervised by: Professor Anna Fox (Professor of Photography, UCA Farnham), Professor George Barber ( Research Degrees Leader, UCA Epsom), Professor Karen Knorr (Professor of Photography, UCA Farnham).

Teza Soe completed her PhD in 2020.