Yangon Echoes exposes untold stories of locals living in Yangon’s dilapidated colonial buildings

A photographic book highlights the conflict surrounding the destruction of Yangon’s historic architecture by putting a spotlight on the buildings’ residents.

From the Series

There is much debate around the remaining British colonial buildings in Myanmar’s capital city, Yangon. The government wants to make way for modern high-rise constructions, but tenants (some of them squatters) have made these historic buildings their homes.Yangon Echoes is a recently published photographic book, which goes behind the walls of these neglected structures to uncover the individual stories of the nameless faces living there.

Oral historian Virginia Henderson and Australian photographer Tim Webster created the book after interviewing 57 residents occupying various buildings dating back to the early 1900s.

The stories are diverse, ranging from evicted residents camping on the streets to a family-run business operating in an apartment for six decades. Webster’s photographs foreshadow the stark realities these locals are faced with, framing the helpless faces wary of landowners and governing bodies that are making money off of their demise.  

“In some ways the book is quite sad,” Henderson told a local publication. “The heritage in this city is facing huge pressures from many corners.”

Despite the efforts of the Yangon Heritage Trust that is fighting to preserve the architecture, four of the 33 buildings featured in the book have already been demolished and those that are still standing are tied up in legal battles over ownership.