Book: Passage to Burma by Scott Stulberg (NEW October 2013)
Monday I introduced a new book that will help you improve your travel photography. Today we’re looking at a coffee-table photography book that will amply demonstrate what a knowledgeable photographer can achieve. Passage to Burma, with words and images by Scott Stulberg, will definitely lure you to travel to Burma with its array of color and monotone photos featuring the landscape, people and unique structures you can find in Burma. Stulberg is a professional photographer who has traveled the world, but spent more time in his favorite country, Burma, than anywhere else.
Is Burma on your Bucket List? WIN THIS BOOK! Just subscribe to A Traveler’s Library by February 7, or tell me in a comment that you are already subscribed, and I’ll choose a person to receive the book. (Only U.S. residents, over 18, please).
In the introduction, Stulberg tackles the question of what to call this troubled country. He explains
Burma was changed to Myanmar and Rangoon to Yangon after a huge suppression by the military of a popular uprising. The change was recognized by the United Nations, and by countries such as France and Japan, but not by the United States and the United Kingdom. So the use of Burma can indicate non-recognition for the military junta, and the use of Myanmar can indicate a distaste for the colonial powers of the past who called the country Burma. For me and my friends, it will forever be Burma.
Stulberg divides the photos into five chapters–five important places in Burma.
A city founded along the Irawaddy River 1200 years ago, Stulberg calls Bagan, “a place of dreams.” The focus here is on pagadoas–understandably, since there are 2,000 of them in an area 1/6 the size of Washington D.C.
Mandalay, thanks to the song “On the Road to Mandalay” is a name familiar to Westerners. I was surprised to learn that the city was built relatively recently–1857. Here the focus is on the Buddhist monks, since this is considered the spiritual center of Buddhism.
Stulberg’s description of Inle Lake reminded me of Tonle Sap in Cambodia, which we visited. Both expand and contract depending on whether it is the rainy season or the dry season. Both are surrounded by tightly packed villages and floating markets. Inle Lake howeverk, is the home of the Padaung, known for the long-neck women. As with some tribes in Africa, girls starting at five years old wear brass rings on their necks–adding rings as they grow older. The emphasis here is on the fisherman of Inle Lake and their unusual practice of steering with one leg.
This remote place is far off the usual tourist routes and a visit is a trip back in time where oxcarts substitute for automobiles. It tkaes 7 hours to get there, and is only accessible by boat. A mixture of landscape, Buddhist and portraits represent Mrauk.
In complete contrast to Mrauk, Rangoon suggests the Burma of Somerset Maugham –a busy modern city that still has colonial accents. The religious focal point is the Great Dragon Pagoda, aka Golden Pagoda, and we are treated to photos of its glory along with busy streets and night scenes.
Do you feel that you have been on a tour of Burma? I certainly did after going through this book.
Although the photos–and the country–are enticing, there are flaws in the book. For one thing, the photographer writes the narrative and his presentation could have used some judicious editing. He is clearly very enthusiastic about his subject, but the expressions tend toward the cliché and his favorite adjectives are reused a few too many times. Likewise, the photos could have been edited down. Many seem repetitive. Surely there were other subjects that could have been inserted in the mix and we could have seen (for example) fewer of the child monks–adorable as they are.
Finally, there were some serious problems with the binding and printing of the book I received for review. This happens sometimes in a print run, but in a photo book it is particularly disconcerting to have streaks across a page or pages poorly bound with the stitching intruding on a full-page photo. It could have been a fluke, so I would not assume that all the books are that way, however, I would suggest you examine any copy carefully and return it if it is not correct.
Has this article got you yearning to visit Burma? Here are eleven practical tips from CNN. And if you’re looking for adventure (what? visiting Burma is not adventure enough?) here’s a tour from Overseas Adventure Tours. (Note: I have no connection to O.A.T. Just thought it looked interesting.)
Note: The publisher provided a review copy of this book, and kindly authorized me to use the photos you see here. Remember the photos are copyrighted, not available for copy. The photo credit: Photos from Passage to Burma by Scott Stulberg, Photography by Scott Stulberg, used by permission of the publisher, © 2013 published by Skyhorse Publishing, hardcover
You also need to know that I am an affiliate of Amazon.com. I put links from the book cover and title to the amazon online store so you can shop easily. Although it costs you no more to use my links, I make a few cents when you do. Thanks for the support.