Nge Layis one of a small but growing group of artists in Myanmar who work with photography as a creative medium. Initially trained as a painter, she approaches photography inventively—experimenting with basic methods and light sources.
In the haunting series The Relevancy of Restricted Things she has photographed five families from the village of Thu Ye Dan, using a canvas tent as her studio and a fisherman’s lantern as the sole light source.
The family groups pictured here are each missing a father, in most cases because of economic migration. Nge Lay, who lost her own father at age 14, dons her father’s old coat and a spectral mask she has made, to “sit in” as the father in each of the family portraits.
In making these evocative photographs, Nge Lay functions as performer, stage director, and image-maker, bringing her own personal history into imaginative relation with the circumstances of others. These five photographs—“referencing our five fingers”—convey the psychological intensity of her process.
Image: Nge Lay. Born in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar, Born 1979. Lives and works in Yangon. Untitled from The Relevancy of Restricted Things, 2010. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist. ©2016 Nge Lay