Brennan O’Connor, winner of 2017 Award

The jury of this sixth edition has awarded Canadian photojournalist Brennan O’Connor, for his work in Burma : “Peace and development”.

The report

For over six decades fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic minorities has fractured the Southeast Asian nation. In 2011, reforms initiated by a quasi-civilian government that replaced the military dictatorship have been unsuccessful in achieving a national peace settlement. Extensive fighting, taking place mainly in the north, has created a severe refugee crisis–a situation that hasn’t improved since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD government took office last April.

Starting from the beginning of Burma’s reform process, this project paints a sobering picture of the country’s deeply troubled peace process. From the front lines of non-ceasefire and ceasefire armed groups–both fighting with the military and sometimes each other–to the many internally displaced persons camps where thousands of largely forgotten villagers face an uncertain future after UN agencies announced cuts to camps.

In areas where ceasefires have begun to pave the way for international investment, this photo series will document the effects of some of these multi-million dollar energy and mineral extraction projects currently being introduced under the guise of development to explore the impacts on ethnic communities.
This project is a chapter of Brennan’s Dividing Lines photo book. Since 2008, he has documented some of the countless millions pushed against and over Burma’s borders by war. Some have been directly displaced by fighting, but the majority are economic refugees driven to seek work in neighboring countries after the long-running conflicts created instability, poverty and rampant unemployment in their homeland.


Brennan O`Connor worked for Canada’s leading media publications before dedicating himself fulltime to cover self-generated under reported stories in the mainstream press. In 2010, he made the decision to leave his native country and move to Southeast Asia to follow a fulltime long-term project on Burma’s ethnic minority groups. The project has taken Brennan around the region to photograph the numerous rebels, refugees and migrants residing in the country’s borderlines. Rarely taking assignments in order to focus all efforts on this project, he survives by selling self-generated work to various media outlets. In 2015, Brennan’s work was screened at Angkor Photo Festival and Yangon Photo Festival and included in the Fotograf Vakfı 3rd Documentary Photography Days in 2016. His work from Burma’s borderlands will eventually culminate into a photo book.