Photographer, Businessman, Painter
An Exhibition and an introduction to his art by Dr.Werner Kraus
Out of all the technological inventions of the 19th century, photography was the one that spread the fastest. Only a couple of years after Louis Daguerre had invented the possibility to freeze light and shadow on glass, and later on paper, the new method of “painting with light” had reached even the most distant regions of the world.
The first cameras that reached Myanmar with the colonial annexation arrived in the late 1840s. Out of the many photographers who came to take pictures in Burma, Philippe Adolphe Klier (1845-1911) was the most influential one. Growing up in a poor family near Frankfurt, Germany, he left his hometown at a young age and travelled to Southeast Asia. Around 1865 he settled in Moulmein, where he married an Anglo-Burmese woman. Later, he moved to Rangoon, where he integrated as well as possible into the society of British colonial Burma. Klier remained in Myanmar for the rest of his life and died in in 1911. Today, his collection of photographs constitutes the biggest and most versatile photographic documentation of the old Burma and the lives of its people between 1870 and 1911.
Klier was not one of those travelling photographers who roamed the world, disconnected from the countries and people who they portrayed in their pictures. Instead, he was deeply involved with his guest country, a fact which is clearly evident in is photographs. They are not depictions of an exotic place – rather, they are documentations of real lives in a real country.
The Goethe-Institut has received the permission of the British Library in London to reproduce an exemplary choice of Klier’s photographic art work. The small exhibition, which will take place in the auditorium of the Goethe Villa, will be accompanied by a seminar held by Dr. Werner Kraus, an expert on the history of Southeast Asian arts. In addition to providing an insight into the German photographer’s biography, Kraus will be looking at Klier’s portrait photography and the fascinating link between photography and modern painting in Myanmar. Klier, who was also an accomplished painter, was a pioneer in this field. Furthermore, the audience will be given the opportunity to look into the initial collaboration, which later turned increasingly competitive, between Klier and the Indian-Burmese photographer D. A. Ahuja. Ahuja and his work mark the beginning of a Burmese (Burmese/Indian) tradition of photography in Myanmar.