Kohima: Award-winning Naga photojournalist Kekhriezhazo Miachieo is on a new mission — to document the Nagas living on the other side of the country’s border in Myanmar.
Titled ‘The Others’, the 31-year-old Kohima native has already completed the first phase of the project by highlighting the lives of the Myanmarese Nagas currently living in Nagaland.
Talking to EastMojo, Miachieo said, “I have been shooting for this since 2016. The project is on the Burmese Nagas titled ‘The Others’. I am documenting the Nagas from Burma (Myanmar) who are currently living in Nagaland to lead a better life and to gain education, to learn about things that they wouldn’t get there because of the prevailing conditions, so that one day they can go back home and help their people.”
In 2017, Miachieo received the Tasveer Awards for Photography, an annual photography award that recognises young talents in the country.
Zhazo, as he is better known, got the recognition for his heart-rending photos of children abusing drugs. The series of 12 pictures was titled ‘Cycle of Street Life’.
Speaking to EastMojo about how he stepped into photography — a profession that is generally not considered conventional in the state, he said: “Art has always been associated with me since I was a kid but the realisation to take up photography as a profession came in very late. It was during the second year in college when my father bought a camera. I fell in love with it and I never looked back since. That was my ticket.”
Photography to me is a very personal profession, said Zhazo. “I am driven by passion and photography is deeply rooted in me. It is a part of me and an extension of me where I try to present myself, my characters, the things I’m going through, I went through or what I expect in the future. So I use this as a tool to express myself,” he said.
Zhazo would often spend hours at the bookstore going through photography books of Ansel Adams, James Nachtwey, Raghu Rai and Sebastião Salgado.” He recalled how he pondered upon the works of these great men and questioned himself as to how he can execute his vision like them.
As a young student, Zhazo’s teacher wanted him “to be a commercial photographer, but I chose journalism because I wanted to learn about the world and about myself through the world and understand myself and find myself in my photographs”, he explained.
Undoubtedly, his passion for his work is clear as the base for his creations is the “depth” that he concentrates in every picture. “My concept is to create a depth in photos and to create stories not only concentrating on the subject but on the surrounding, the environment, the elements that I can bring in that can complement or rather contradict my subject and to create emotions so that viewers not only look at it but react to it.”
Miachieo expresses how fulfilling it is when his works “make an impact in society or in an individual’s life” and that the efforts of the people to reach out to him to express their connection through his work that makes him “feel like your purpose as a photojournalist have been accomplished”. “It is satisfying when my works are acknowledged in magazines, newspapers and different social media platforms,” he added.
On the current scene of photography in the state, he’s glad that a lot of young photographers are taking up formal training outside the state and that’s the bright part of it. “However, it is disheartening that there is abrupt explosion of professionals in photography that’s leading to a decline in quality,” he said, adding: “Photography takes time, it’s an art, it’s a practice where every time you go out there, you enhance yourself and your skill with each assignment.”
He is hopeful that in the coming years “people will look at it and learn from it.”
The humble photojournalist has his piece of advice for upcoming enthusiasts. “Camera is just a tool that executes your vision. You need to have a vision first. Vision means you need to learn how to look at things in terms of photography like see things in lights, shapes, curves, perspective, subjects, characters, emotions, colors and even black and white. You need to develop that first and then and only then you can be a good photographer,” he said.
For the next phase of his project ‘The Others’, Miachieo will have to travel to Myanmar. That, however, will be challenging, he said. “I want to walk with the Myanmarese Nagas to their villages. But that will be difficult because of the situation there. It takes days to travel not only by car but by foot.”
“Also, many people are not willing to take me there. But I am hopeful that one day, I will definitely achieve that,” he concluded on a positive note.