NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Memorial Library opened up its newest photography exhibit, “Myanmar: Land of Optimism and Beauty” by Kinue Imai Weinstein, a local New Providence resident, on June 29. Through Sept. 6, library patrons and visitors will be able to enjoy this collection that is sponsored by the Friends of the Library organization.

Weinstein first came in contact with Burmese culture when studying at Osaka University in Japan, but due to unfavorable conditions and a lack of job opportunities, didn’t get a chance to visit Myanmar until 1998. Instantly, she fell in love with the country and was “astonished by the people’s friendliness, politeness, and positive attitude despite the repressive military government and harsh living conditions.” The Burmese people, despite living among penury, retain middle-class values. This struck Weinstein so deeply that since her first visit in 1998, she has gone back three more times, venturing all over the country from Yangon to Bagan to Mandalay.

Weinstein’s photos feature a range of topics--from vendors at a local marketplace to nuns diligently studying in a convent to the eerie sunset over the Bagan forest. Through them all, Weinstein manages to capture the optimism of the Burmese people that is found in the teachings of Buddhist contentment. Amidst the darkness of poverty in each of these photos, the bright smiles of the Burmese people, untainted by grief, radiate forth and leave lasting impressions on all viewers.

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When asked what her favorite photograph was, Weinstein immediately walked over to the largest portrait of three novice nuns dressed in soft pink robes. She then proceeded to explain that even though some nuns had no choice but to enter a convent because their families were too poor, others chose this life for themselves. Weinstein said it touched her that despite the poverty there were people in Burma willing to make sacrifices for the good of society.

A special collection in Weinstein’s collections are pictures taken among the National Day celebrations in Burma that commemorates Burma’s first step toward independence embodied by the students’ strike at Rangoon University in 1920. In these photos, citizens ranging from the aged senior citizens to the young schoolchildren flood the streets, waving flags and cheering. These photos also feature Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, their national hero, making her 2012 National Day speech in her father’s small hometown of Natmauk. Weinstein remarks that the fact that people of all ages came out to celebrate this occasion and support Suu Kyi shows how greatly these people “truly embrace democracy”.

New Providence resident Alan Zegas applauded Weinstein’s work. “She really has an eye for composition and color and is particularly good with photographing people," he said.

The Conti and Reading rooms that host the pieces are open during all library hours.