Still Lifes from a Vanishing City: Essays and Photographs from Yangon by Elizabeth Rush
In 2010, the tectonic plates beneath the junta-controlled Myanmar started to shift. As the military regime began to loosen its reigns on power it auctioned off 80% of the country s state-owned assets and earmarked hundreds of buildings in downtown Yangon for demolition and redevelopment. This opaque but surely profitable fire sale would profoundly reshape the country s economic landscape and the lives of those who had long called the former colonial capital of Yangon home. Elizabeth Rush, a westerner who has been reporting on South East Asia for years, made good use of strange days just before Myanmar s awakening to venture into the lost world of downtown Yangon, but it was not the large edifices of Empire that attracted her attention. Rather, she focused on the shop houses and private residences that line the alleyways and it is here, in these forgotten and secluded spaces, that the city s real secrets have been kept. After all, it was not in the bad old days of the Burmese regime just those who were overtly political who had to succumb to the silence. In a world where anyone accused or perceived of being on the wrong side of the regime could end up in prison with no legal recourse, people turned inwards by necessity. Only behind closed doors was it safe to indulge in private obsessions and the day-to-day worries of making ends meet. Still Lifes from a Vanishing City celebrates and preserves the interior lives diligently maintained despite the dictatorship s powerfully effacing reach.