The first time I traveled to Burma, I knew very little about the country and it’s politics. I remember being struck by the meditative beauty of the landscape, the sensory chaos of the cities, and the quiet elegance of the people. As I read and learned more about the history and political situation, it seemed as though the only news and images coming from the country were exceedingly negative and ugly. Most tourists are kept away from this reality, myself included. I wanted to photograph the people I was spending my time with: the men and boys who joked around with me and each other, the girls whose laughter was so sweet, the friends I had tea with, the familiar faces we’d meet on the road, and soon my days were all about making pictures. What I was drawn to were the areas outside the cities, the villages next to the river, where fishermen and their families lived and worked. In that spare and graphic river setting, I made intimate portraits, mostly of the men I encountered, in isolated and stylized poses. Returning to those places annually developed an ongoing series, yet more importantly, it familiarized me with the rhythm of the landscape, and connected me to a small group of people who kindly allow me to photograph them. My impression is that much of the country looks like early 20th century images and I kept my version of that look in mind as I made my photographs.
I travel with my Bronica medium format camera, one lens, and a few plastic bags filled with Ilford Delta 400 film. My photographs are printed from negatives in my traditional darkroom and selenium toned. I print in editions of 25, on 16″x 20″ paper, and prices increase as the edition sells.
Monica Denevan studied photography at San Francisco State University but it wasn’t until she started traveling extensively that she began to see differently. She has been visiting parts of Burma and China for many years, traveling light, with minimal equipment. Denevan’s photographs have been exhibited internationally including solos shows at Scott Nichols Gallery (San Francisco), Tao Gallery (Hong Kong), and Serindia Gallery ANNEX (Bangkok). Recently, her work was included in the Annenberg Space for Photography’s “No Strangers” slideshow event in Los Angeles and the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 2012. Her work had been published in LensWork, Bangkok Airways Inflight Magazine, ZYZZYVA, Communication Arts Photo Annual, SHOTS, Black and White Magazine, The Photo Review, and Artvas-The Photo (Korea) among others. Denevan’s images have been on the cover of Black+White Photography (UK), The Sun magazine (US), and Les iles by Philippe Lancon (Paris: J’ai Lu). Online, her work has been featured on LENSCRATCH, F-Stop magazine, Le Journal de la Photographie, and Art Photo Index (photo-eye). Monica Denevan is represented by Scott Nichols Gallery (San Francisco), Duncan Miller Gallery (Santa Monica), Capital Culture Gallery (London), and Serindia Gallery (Bangkok). Her photographs are in the permanent collection of UCSF Medical Center. She lives and works in San Francisco.