This photograph is not available online to protect the individuals photographed.
2024 Photo Contest, Southeast Asia and Oceania, Long-Term Projects

Revolution in Myanmar


Ta Mwe

Sacca Photo, VII Foundation, Frontline Club, W. Eugene Smith Grant

This photograph is not available online to protect the individuals photographed.

On 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s military leaders carried out a coup deposing its democratically elected government and shattering a decade of political and social development. The new military junta immediately arrested democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside other lawmakers and activists. Small acts of civilian defiance within the first few days after the coup rapidly grew to a nationwide peaceful uprising that protesters referred to as the Spring Revolution. The military met protests with deadly force and mass detention. According to Human Rights Watch, by the end of 2023 at least 24,000 anti-coup protesters had been arrested and 4,000 killed.

Peaceful protest soon grew into armed resistance, which developed into a civil war headed by the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) – the armed wing of a parallel government that was formed by ousted democratic lawmakers in the wake of the coup. As the PDF now partners with different ethnic insurgent groups around the country, the Myanmar military finds itself fighting on numerous fronts, from the borderlands near India, China, and Thailand to the country’s heartland. As the civil war continues, these joint rebel forces may play a crucial role in Myanmar’s future.

Working at great personal risk to capture the persistence of the struggle, the photographer used an analog, medium-format camera with black-and-white film for the project. Part of his reason for doing this was that they grew up learning about his country's history from black-and-white photos and film footage of previous military coups, in 1962 and 1988. Additionally, they chose to document the Spring Revolution without color in response to “a feeling that the country has entered dark days, having lost democracy.”


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About the photographer

Ta Mwe is a Myanmarese photojournalist and documentary photographer with experience covering a wide range of political and social stories and events in Myanmar. After several years of working for national and international publications and organizations as a photographer, videographer and video editor, Ta Mwe's ...

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Technical information

Hasselblad 501c

Jury comment

The jury valued how local voices continue to provide visual evidence on the conflict in Myanmar, and serve as a reminder that the military coup and  the persecution of civil-rights groups in the hinterlands persists. The photographer’s courage and emotional investment is evident both in the intimacy of each image and the photographic style achieved in such precarious conditions. The project touches on different facets of the conflict and highlights the people's persistence in their pursuit for freedom and democracy.