The Republic of Myanmar, also known at Burma, shares its borders with parts of Thailand, Laos, China, Bangladesh and a nearly disconnected strip of India. It’s a long way from the Hudson Valley, yet a photographer from Saugerties, Ken Dreyfack, was compelled to go there to record the lives of ordinary people. He talks about Myanmar’s recent troubled history and hopes that his photographs convey “at least a hint of recent brutalities and the long-stifled aspirations” of its citizens.
“The country had been closed off to the rest of the world for decades until only a few years ago, when its authoritarian military regime began a partial liberalization. I had been told that, with an opportunity to encounter foreigners for the first time in a generation, the people of Myanmar were eager to welcome and engage with travelers from abroad. I wanted to seize this window of opportunity, before foreign investment transformed the country into a ‘modern’ Asian nation – or before the regime reversed course and again shut off Myanmar from the rest of the world.” His resulting efforts will be shown in the exhibit “Faces of Myanmar” at the Mary Wojtecki Rotunda Gallery in the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie.
Born in New York City, Dreyfack spent 30 years in France and has lived in the Hudson Valley since 2008. He received formal training in the art and technique of photography at the International Center for Photography in New York, the Silvermine Art Center in New Canaan, Connecticut and the Center for Photography in Woodstock, and has studied with masters such as Dan Burkholder and Harvey Stein. His work has been selected for juried exhibitions in Vermont, Maryland and New York since 2013. “Faces of Myanmar” is his first solo show.
For nearly a month late last year, Dreyfack toured the cities and countryside of Myanmar to meet and take pictures of the ethnically diverse population and capture the essence of their lives at this crucial point in history. He photographed street-market settings and scenes of fishermen at the mist-laden Inlay Lake. He caught faces on the other side of the lens, worn expressions of hope for an unknown future.
The exhibit will include more than three dozen black-and-white images offering the world a rare look at the Burmese people today. “I was fortunate to be able to discover Myanmar during this time,” he says. “It seems that the verdict is still out, but whatever happens, the current situation does not seem sustainable.” The exhibit can be viewed from May 30 through June 28 during regular library hours.
“Faces of Myanmar” opening reception, Saturday, May 30, 3-4:30 p.m., free, Adriance Memorial Library, 93 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; (845) 485-3445, https://poklib.org/wojtecki-gallery-faces-of-myanmar, www.kad.photo.