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Photo : Video : Storytelling

A blog by Paul Bettings

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Pressure Baby: A Documentary Film

Ayerawaddy River, Myanmar.

Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-120 f4

I captured a photo at sunset while riding on a riverboat in Myanmar. It was well past the magic moment of the sunset, but there were still deep-dark colours in the sky. We were heading to a spot where the river was met by two other sections of the river and the water was choppy. I was pushing my camera settings to compensate for the darkness and I thought that most of the images I was taking would be too dark and grainy. My ISO was at 1600 and my shutter speed was too fast at 1/320, f-stop was f4. The scenes passing me by were incredible though and I couldn’t let them pass me by without at least trying to capture some good frames. I was sitting on the front of the boat as another riverboat came in the opposite direction; a man standing, driving the boat, and a woman sitting. I took a few images as we passed them by, not knowing that this image would represent the countless hours I had the privilege of spending in Myanmar.

The Making of a Documentary

Over the past four years I have been travelling to a remote region of Myanmar to visit with a young mother named Zin. Zin is quiet, confident, and tough. To get to her village means motorbike rides through the jungle, riverboat rides on long shallow-hulled boats with loud engines, following footpaths through villages, and across paddy fields. On my first visit to see Zin, she was skeptical of me, on my second visit a year later she knew me, on my third visit she smiled when she saw me.

Pressure Baby is Zin’s story. It’s a documentary a team of people at World Vision Canada and I have been working to tell the story of a woman, a family, a community and a baby. It is the story about the struggle of life in rural Myanmar, in the remote areas of the country that are often overlooked by travellers. We would spend days on end with Zin, following her and her family as they went about their regular day, cooking, harvesting and watering crops, and buying supplies at the market. These days have culminated in a narrative that is the story of resilience, community and development.

The only photo I have printed in five years

I printed the riverboat photo; it sits behind me as I work and I often see its reflection in my computer screen. It calms me, it brings me back to a moment of peace. But it also tells of purpose and confidence, the man has his chin up as he stands and drives the boat, the woman is looking forward. This is reminiscent of my time with Zin; her head held high and always looking forward.


Pressure Baby will premiere on February 18th, I would love for you to take part in the virtual event and watch the documentary. Sign up at at the event site here.

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