Karen mother and her infant outside the Mae La refugee camp along the Burma / Myanmar border

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  @F8  1/160th  195mm  100 ISO


I've spent a lot of time in the Mae Sot area lately and visited the refugee camps   and orphanages  on many occasions.  These places are always crowded with people, each with a unique story but lumped together with people where part of the story is the same.  The tragedy of the genocide in Myanmar and resulting refugees, many of them orphans, will be one of the most photographed and documented such stories of all time.  I hope to do my part.

In an area teeming with the masses it's easy to forget the 'masses' consist of hundreds of thousands if not millions of individuals with their own unique stories.  In the coming decades as history sorts out these atrocities the most compelling accounts of the mass genocides will come as they always do, from individuals.  From a photographic standpoint finding those individuals who 'stand out' in some significant way becomes the norm.

But what about highlighting an 'individual' who really is blatantly average and represents the masses?  How do we make that persons stand apart from the masses so we can take notice and think about the events taking place?  This is what I attempted to do with this feature photograph.  This photograph is significant because it represents an average individual who represents the masses.

This young lady is only 17 years old.  Karen's rapidly age in appearance due to a hard life lived mostly outdoors or in the open.  Already a mother she carries the baby in the traditional Karen manner shielding it from the harsh sun with an umbrella.  The band-aid on her little finger was from a diabetes blood sugar test where she poked herself a bit too hard.  One of the many NGO's was teaching her how to self-test and administer insulin as needed.  Diabetes at any age in any society is very rough, for a single 17 year old Karin mother it can quickly become a death sentence.  The volunteers and NGO's do their best to make sure this doesn't happen.

From a photographic standpoint I loved how the yellowish light coming through the umbrella lit both the mother and baby's faces.  The 'hot' yellow umbrella, the soft light on their faces, the determined look of the mother and the peaceful sleep of the baby.  I de-saturated the background for further effect.

Look at her gaze.  How many 17 year olds have you seen with such a stoic look?  Unmoved by emotion, uncomplaining, and at the same time fully understanding her fate as a single 17 year old Karen mother in a refugee camp on the Thai/Myanmar border.  Will she ever be able to return to her Burma?  Will her child?  I wonder who will be left if she does return..