Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Abbey Road (and other pictures)


This is my first post in quite a while. I’ve been neglecting all aspects of photography for some time now. The truth is I’ve become a little disillusioned with the whole process – not just taking pictures, but sorting, processing and sharing them as well. I can’t quite explain why this is. I live in Yangon, a city which is, by any standards, a fantastic place for photography. I should be out taking pictures every spare moment I get, as I was for the first few months that I lived here. But somehow that spark has gone. Recently, on the few occasions I’ve been out with my camera, I’ll see a potential photograph, but something stops me from taking it. I’ll think to myself that I’ve taken that picture before (as I probably have) or I’ll start second-guessing a potential portrait subject, expecting them to refuse, so I don’t even bother approaching them. It’s all negative and defeatist, and I know it is as I’m doing it, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it.

But I miss it. Photography is the only thing I’ve ever really been any good at, and it’s been a big part of my life for the ten years or so that I’ve been living in south-east Asia; so when I find myself so lacking in inspiration, it feels like there’s something missing. Although there are times when I feel like selling my camera and lenses and giving up altogether, there are others when I don’t want to give up so easily.

So in an effort to give myself a much needed kick up the arse, I’ve been looking through the backlog of pictures I built up in the early part of last year. I’ve been pleased to find that they’re not all completely terrible, so I’m going to start publishing some here, and try to get this blog moving again. Maybe that, in turn, will get me out and about shooting again.

This is all getting a bit introspective and self-absorbed (but you should have seen my first draft). Anyway, here are some pictures. They’re all about a year old, and were taken on the streets of downtown Yangon.
















27 Responses to “Abbey Road (and other pictures)”

  1. bobdoran

    Truly fine portraiture. Don’t stop posting them. I know how you feel about putting your work and yourself out there. It’s worth it.

  2. Andrea.

    Hallo from the other side of the word – please go farther out and take pictures –
    i love them all and i wait here for them. Please…..
    I know the thoughts – let them go – and trust the process..

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thanks, Andrea. I’m definitely starting to feel more positive, partly due to encouraging comments like yours. Hope to have new pictures to share soon.

  3. Jill's Scene

    I’m pleased to see you back. I’ve always appreciated your photos, and even tried to emulate your style on my trips to SE Asia until I got more confident myself. They say imitation is the best form of flattery, right? I hope you find your energy and enthusiasm, again. These shots of the people of Yangon take me right back there. Thanks.

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you, Jill. I think the energy and enthusiasm is starting to come back. I really appreciate the support.

  4. Alison and Don

    Oh but Jon these pictures are magical! You’ve really captured the people of Yangon. We spent 3 weeks in Myanmar a few years back and loved it so your photos brought back some good memories.
    I think we all go through these kinds of slumps. I know I have – what’s the point, I’m not good enough at it, etc. but one day your love of photography will pull you through.One thing about staying a long time in one place is it forces you to try to find new ways of looking at things so you’re not taking the same photos as previously. At the same time I rarely go out photographing in Vancouver – it’s more for when I’m travelling. Maybe Yangon is starting to feel like your hometown so there’s less inspiration. Can you take weekend trips to different parts of the country that you haven’t photographed yet? That might help.
    Or just stop for a while. Gosh, don’t sell your equipment! But maybe just put it all away for a bit until it starts to speak to you again.
    Hope you figure it out. I think introspection is healthy.
    We’re off to Paris, Rishikesh, and Kyoto for 7 weeks in a few days – so lots of new material.

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thanks, Alison. I think I’m starting to come out of my slump. You might be right about Yangon becoming too familiar – it’s sometimes easier to find inspiration in an unfamiliar place. But there’s so much to see right here – I just need to get out more! Thanks for your support, it’s much appreciated. Enjoy your trip – it sounds wonderful.

  5. bushflowergirl

    Such beautiful portraits… I encourage you to please keep going… I heard a saying once from a Greek music teacher and he said “Do your best work and then throw it in the sea…” I guess what he means was to do what you love and that which inspires you and then let it go. Let it go with no expectation for what the outcome will be for sometimes this is when it is best recieved and takes on an energy of its own… set yourself free and follow your passion… you have a gift…

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you. I like the idea of letting it go with no expectations. I think I just need to get out there and take pictures without over-thinking it.

  6. helen@helenb.co.uk

    Hey Jon

    Lovely to see your pics and hear from you as ever. I 100% get your antipathy, I’ve had that with creative pursuits I love and can never quite work out why. Usually a break does the trick, but also making conscious time to reinvigorate myself. A few friends had asked me to help them make, mend, or discover new crafts last year and in the end I convened a ‘crafternoon’ for us to eat cake, catch up and do craft. Somehow the act of making it conscious and involving other people was really inspiring, and I’ve been more crafty since.

    Anyway, if you feel like not doing it then I reckon that’s no bad thing either so don’t beat yourself up I say!



    • Jon Sanwell

      Thanks, Helen. I guess we all go through these peaks and troughs. This has been quite a long trough, but I’m starting to feel enthused again. Like the idea of a ‘crafternoon.’ Cake always helps.

  7. www.corneliaweber-photography.com

    Your images carry a certain signature nobody else has, when I see an image I know it is your unique style. Even as a professional photographer I go through those phases you are describing , at times I just take a creative break ( that’s how I call it) until something new appears in front of my camera, and that might be something totally different what I had been doing before. I think it is also those expectations we put on us, which can at times stop us, and that is the times to allow yourself a little creative break. Just see with your own eyes for a while, instead of the “lens eyes”. Have a great weekend, best wishes from Cornelia

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thanks, Cornelia. I definitely agree that the expectations we put on ourselves can sometimes hold us back. Hoping that my little creative break is coming to an end.

  8. awtytravels

    Glad to see you back. As some have said, I missed your style and the views from Myanmar!

    I can understand the feeling of having ‘enough’, though. Hope it’ll pass soon.


    • Jon Sanwell

      Thanks, Fabrizio. I think that feeling is beginning to pass. In the meantime, there are more pictures from the backburner to share, so there should be more posts soon.

  9. Earth Under my Feet

    Ahhh, please don’t give up Jon, your portraiture is gorgeous – filled with so much soul and beautiful contrasting colours. I could tell you how lucky you are to live in Yangon (which is high on my Bucket List and a place many of us can’t afford to travel to) and to Just Do It, but I feel you because I live in one of the most magnificent cities in the world with loads of natural beauty, but somehow life gets n the way and often I just can’t be arsed. So please keep posting and in turn I’ll get stuck into the 600 odd photos I took of elephants in December 🙂

  10. bluebrightly

    Here’s another person who finds joy and meaning in your work. That was a lot of what psychologist call negative self talk in that post! I’m sorry you’ve been so beset by those views. That’s what they are, just views, but the emotions, once they take root, can be hard to change. Sometimes we just have to plow through a dry spell, a down time. It too is temporary. I like Alison’s thoughts above, and I’m glad to see, reading your replies to comments, that you’re feeling more positive.
    Your posts have always been treats for me, something I look forward to. I’ve mentioned the colors before, but of course it’s more than that. I love the location too, but you have your own take on it, which you convey beautifully. You have a gift for finding an expression that’s appropriate to the setting, if that makes sense – like the wise-looking man with the palm behind him, the weary woman in the photo beneath that, with all the green boxes, the woodworker who looks pleasantly absorbed in his craft. Then there’s the man at the cafe reading the paper – he’s ambivalent about the photo. 🙂 Visually, in the 13th photo I love the repeating shapes of the man’s fingers, toes (and foot tendons!) and the seat texture. Wonderful. Have a good week, and whatever you do, no judgements from this quarter. Thanks for telling these stories – yours and theirs.

    • Jon Sanwell

      Thank you for the support and positive feedback. You’re right about the negative self talk, of course. I know that it’s not productive or helpful, but that doesn’t always stop me from doing it!

      • bluebrightly

        No, and I apologize if I sounded too critical. Believe me, I indulge in it too! The bottom line is (for me) that I love seeing your work, and I hope to see more. Have a good week!

  11. Tim

    Welcome back Jon, everything I was going to say has already been said above. Keep the photos coming!


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