Images of Myanmar Beatrice Minda
When did you decide to devote your work as a photographer to the interiors of architecture?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. My interest in interior spaces developed as I worked. After completing some pieces with an exterior focus, I asked myself which interior spaces had made a particular impression on me and that in turn led me to the rooms that were important to me in my childhood, to Romania, the country my parents came from.
Your pictures play with the presence of what is absent. What insights into an interior life that is usually hidden are made possible this way?
The interior can be a kind of mirror of time, one that also makes reference to what is not in the room. It speaks not only of what is hidden but also connects the private with the influences of a public exterior space and thereby creates a more complete picture of time.
To the observer, it appears to stand still, but what role does time play for you?
The feeling for time encapsulated in many of my pictures is perhaps connected to my own sense of time. I remember when I was a child feeling as if I was in a time capsule in those Romanian rooms. I wanted to communicate something of that feeling and I think it is something I seek out also in many other rooms that I photograph.
Why are rooms particularly good for making visible that which is actually invisible, memory?
An inhabited interior space is made into a protected place, a refuge. A person inhabits and brings life to this room over a period of time.
A person comes in from outside and goes out again and thus brings traces of the outside world into the inner world. The house itself is static, but is imprinted by its inhabitants, by events that are constantly becoming the past. The observer of the picture can connect to that past. He brings his own spheres of the imagination and experience and can decipher the visible clues.
Are there certain principles in your work when it comes to the depiction of a foreign culture, the intimate details of the individual?
I try to approach what I encounter respectfully and carefully; to create a balance between the depiction of a space with its personal influences and the intimate sphere of the inhabitants. It is not about exposing anything, but rather about making something tangible and thereby capturing something beyond the personal.
Light and focus lend the places of gatherings – dining table, chairs, beds – a presence of almost heightened reality. What sort of influence can certain surroundings have on their inhabitants?
I think surroundings definitely have an influence on inhabitants, but on the other hand I am regarding it rather from the viewpoint of the influences that inhabitants and events of the day have on their surroundings.
How is it that your way of telling a family story consists of stone and mortar and not of faces?
I want to capture something like a “time and space” picture and draw on several generations, so not only the one currently residing in the rooms. I also want to give the observer the possibility to project himself into the pictures, and having people present would distract from that.
Does the diverse history of Myanmar, not least the dictatorship, lend the pictures a particular aim of conveying a message? What role can photography take on in this context?
The pictures bring the observer into contact with the history of the country and perhaps encourage him to engage more deeply with it. But also with the ambivalent happenings of the present day which themselves will soon be history.
The past and memory are intrinsically photographic themes and one can learn from the past for the future.
Can one read the souls of inhabitants from interior rooms? What would they tell us about them?
I’m not sure if it is possible to say that, so I’ll try to answer this differently. I try to capture a tangible atmosphere. For me then, what I know about the places, the history, and their inhabitants becomes mixed together with what I see. The more I see, the more I understand. Some things can be explained, other things presumed.
The life stories of people, as far as one can have an overview, are often moving, even if those people were involved in dramatic events. Looking back, it becomes clear how much the individual is part of a whole.
Myanmar is looking back over long, dangerous years. In how far is the Burmese home a place of refuge?
The Burmese houses that I photographed are often only a thin membrane to the outside world, and yet they are a shelter, however fragile.