Dear friends,

It was an exciting couple of weeks at the end of November / early December when I launched my new book “Portraits of Myanmar. A celebration of Work, Play and Prayer”, first in Chiang Mai on my birthday no less – what a great way to celebrate, and then 10 days later in Yangon.  Normally my blogs are about places I have visited with just a few photos of myself included, but this is a little different, many showing me with friends helping me celebrate the launch.  In Yangon, I had the added pleasure of sharing my book with some of my neighbours, colleagues and friends who feature on the pages of my book.

Here it is, the photobook about the people of Myanmar, a project which I have thought about for a very long time and which finally came to fruition with the assistance of my talented friend, artist and publisher Galen Garwood of Marrowstone Press.

For my Chiang Mai Launch, I was privileged to hold the first event in my friend Hans Christensen’s newly redecorated ‘The House Lounge’ and he pulled out all the stops to serve a welcoming cocktail, delicious canapes, good wines and a splendid ambience for the sixty plus people who attended.

At The House Lounge with a birthday/launch flowers from my friends Lasse and Sommai, two of my photos behind.

Signing a book for Hans, with stacks of my two books and sets of cards arrayed around me.

Host Hans (on the right) with a group of friends at the launch. 

With Lisa, another Kiwi, showing off one of the sets of greeting cards, five assorted cards per pack. 

With my friend Dominique, and some of her team with Khun Anchana of the Skills for Life Foundation, with a birthday bouquet. I respect and support the work of this Foundation and it was lovely that they supported me in this endeavour.

Happy to sign a book for friends, Bruce and Gerard, with Gerard’s nephew joining the party.

Chatting with Carmen, probably about elephants as we work together on elephant conservation and welfare projects.

And with fellow photographer and elephant vet, Dr Khajohnpat.  We are in the early stages of collaborating on a book
about elephants with his superb elephant photos and my texts, which would add another dimension to our work
with ACEWG (Asian Captive Elephant Working Group) to provide some real insight into the current situation of elephants,
their owners and mahouts in Thailand today, a subject much discussed and debated today. 

My designer/publisher Galen on the left, my website/IT guru Tim on the right and between them, my friend Victoria, researcher, author, photographer, renowned for her ‘Music of the Golden Triangle’ exhibitions, books and videos.

Happy to be launching my book on my birthday with friends around. Here with Tim and Theo.

A week later, I flew to Yangon together with Galen who was visiting Myanmar for the first time, although as he commented, “I have been living in your photos of the country and its people for the last six months or more.”

The launch was held at the beautiful ‘River Gallery’ in downtown Yangon, owned by my kiwi friend and long-time Yangon resident Gill Patteson. Not such a big turn out as in Chiang Mai but a lovely evening nonetheless. As a nice link between the Chiang Mai and Yangon launches, my friend and guitarist Ko Thet Shwe who used to be the in-house musician at The House in Chiang Mai and now back in Yangon, played classical music throughout the evening.

With friends Ko Zaw and Andy, looking through the book together to find their photos.

Andy and Ko Zaw taking a closer look, with some of my framed portraits leaning behind.

With my good friend ZarNi, happy to find photos of his wedding to Sandy in the book, with his sister Shwesin looking on.

Gallery owner Gill talking with artist Khin Maung Zaw, whose beautiful watercolour paintings were much admired
and sought after in our Chiang Mai Gallery ‘La Luna’ when that was my main occupation, from 2004 to 2011. 

With Michael and Linda, Yangon residents and travel enthusiasts like me. 

Signing a book for Ei Ei, a friend and neighbour from when I lived here, and who I photographed often at that time with
her two cats. She now has two university degrees and, amongst other things is a leader in the Myanmar Red Cross Youth,
perhaps influenced by seeing my Red Cross car driving past her house every day during the four years I lived there.

The page of my book showing Ei Ei with her cats, possibly related to my two cats who now reside with me in Chiang Mai.

The day after the launch I met up with Ei Ei again back in my old street and went looking for some of the other neighbours who had their photos in my book. One was of a woman cooking at her stall with her young daughter peeping out from behind. We found her stall but she was not there. However, a man at a nearby booth directed us through the temple and down a couple of side streets to find her house. After asking a few more people along the way, we climbed to the second floor of an apartment building and knocked on a door. Imagine her surprise to see a stranger standing at her door with a book. We were invited in and, all smiles from the woman and all stares from the child, we chatted for a while and I signed and gave her a copy of the book. What a nice feeling that gave me.

The cook, the child and the photographer.

I wanted to find the young boy who features on the opening page of the ‘play’ section of the book, but his family
were not at home. However I left a book behind signed for him, and just an hour or two later Ei Ei sent me a photo
of Tarzan, so nicknamed because of the long hair he sported as a child, his locks now shorn, with his copy of the book.  

Another happy meeting in my old street was with Yu Maw and her eldest child Tin Zar Win who feature in my book “Two Eggs and a Lemon” which was published last year.  Yu Maw has now a bigger business at the end of the street and invited me to sit for a snack. Having just had breakfast, I declined but we chatted anyway. Tin Zar Win is now doing well at her secondary school.

With Yu Maw and Tin  Zar Win at her tea shop with a fine variety of hot snacks, and below is a picture of them from my book ‘Two Eggs and a Lemon”, this particular chapter about the birth and naming of her second daughter.

That evening, I had a reunion dinner with some of my old team including Hset Hset and her son Hu Gaw Shar, who I photographed at their house some years back when he was painstakingly doing his homework under the eagle eye of his mother.

Hset Hset and Hu Gaw Shar proudly showing his picture from the book. 

Also joining our dinner reunion was Maung Taut who was one of my house caretakers during my stay in Yangon.
This fine photo I took of him at a staff outing is featured in the introduction to the book. 

A special treat during the evening was meeting Thoon Thoon, the new little daughter of ZarNi and Sandy whose wedding I attended and photographed in 2016.  They call me her ‘Kiwigranny’ which is lovely.  Incidentally, with ZarNi being an IT guy, Thoon Thoon has had her own facebook page since the day she was born, and I can keep up with her progress this way.

Sandy and ZarNi with their little princess, just two months old.

I hoped of course that Thoon Thoon would not burst into tears at the sight of a stranger, but she settled right down
in my arms, very relaxed. I look forward to seeing her grow up over the next years. 

So there you have it – altogether a lovely couple of occasions, in Chiang Mai and Yangon, and I now feel that my book is now well and truly launched.

Special thanks to Hans Christensen of The House Lounge in Chiang Mai and to Gill Pattison in Yangon for hosting my book launch parties. Also, thank you to Steve in Chiang Mai, and YuYa and Ei Ei in Yangon for sharing their photos for this blog.

Should you be interested in obtaining a copy of my ‘Portraits of Myanmar’ you can order a signed, deluxe copy directly through my website or for a smaller softcover version you can click on a button on my website which will take you to an order page.  My previous publication is also available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other on-line bookshops.

Until soon, with all good wishes and a Happy New Year to you all,