Adventure photographer David Heath spent five years assembling an astonishing series of photographs of Burma (Myanmar) for his book Burma: An Enchanted Spirit. He recently spoke with The Diplomat and shared a selection of his stunning work.
You’ve traveled through much of the world. What motivated you to focus this book on Burma?
Over the years I’ve come across many photographs taken in Burma and they’ve always visually appealed to me. I remember seeing photos of the temples in Bagan for the first time and my mind was blown. I thought, I have to go to that place; it really seemed like another world. Its isolation due to the political situation, its remoteness; I was intrigued. Another lure for me was Buddhism. I’ve always had an interest in exploring Buddhist countries and have traveled to many, for instance, Bhutan, Nepal and Cambodia.
What was the most moving part of the journey for you?
The people. Initially I was primarily interested in taking landscape shots but ended up falling in love with the people and it changed my photography; I love shooting portraits now. I’ve never encountered a nation so compassionate, loving, funny, resilient and friendly. There is true joy there. The history of the country really affected me too. After spending six years there on and off, I have learned so much about their plight and the oppression they’ve endured.
What have you taken away from your experience in Burma?
I have a newfound level of humility and appreciation for life. I’ve learned so much from the Burmese people about being present, giving and loving. They’re not caught up in the trappings of materialism and the culture of getting; they place importance on being in the moment and enjoying what they have, not what they don’t. Its inspired to be more aware and appreciative of those around me. There are so many different, unique cultures in the world, yet we are all connected. It’s amazing how similar human beings are.
What’s next for you?
Promoting my book, sharing this amazing country and Aung San Suu Kyi’s story with the world. I’d also like start traveling again soon. There are several countries in Africa, South America and Asia that I’m very interested in visiting. That said, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of Burma yet. I have a personal goal to see every one of the countries 135 tribes there with my guide, Win. Another book about Burma could also be in the cards, there are so many shots I have yet to take there.