Revisiting: Abominations – The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front catalogue


Between 1997  & 1998 I lived in South East Asia, spending most of my time living in the jungle/border area between Thailand and Burma with the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF). I took hundreds, if not a few thousand photos all on 35mm film. I was a young female photographer living with a “guerrilla army”, extremely naive about global politics (I tried the internet to research Burma before going, it was pretty empty back then!) and on a self-funded trip with no press connections or the faintest idea of how to make any.

I returned to Canada in 1998, exhibited some of the images with Amnesty International at The University of Toronto, won a Young People’s Press writing contest about my trip that was published in Young Street (a syndicated section in the The Toronto Star) and then as time passed a few of the images became pieces in my portfolio and the rest part of the archive.

In 2006 I created these faux catalogue tear sheets for: Abominations, an exhibition curated by Ron John George Nelson at the VMAC Gallery. When I took these images of ABSDF soldiers in the frontlines, the boys and men in the photographs composed themselves as serious soldiers, the men of Burma’s future. They are some of my favourite photographs of my time with the ABSDF. When I took these photos I struggled with the idea that I was exploiting The ABSDF, their struggle and their existence for my own personal gain. Isn’t that what photographers do? The darker the image, the more suffering I could capture, the more important the image – right? I took them anyways. I’m glad i did.

These tearsheets were never and are not intended to mock the struggle of the ABSDF. The texts are a lampoon of the fashions of war, the end product an abomination.

Art made.

This is the text that accompanied the work in 2006.

The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, (ABSDF) is a Burmese Students organization formed in 1988 with Burmese students who fled the country following the 1988 nationwide pro-democracy uprising after thousands of their unarmed comrades and friends were gunned down by Burmese soldiers while peacefully demonstrating on the streets. After the bloody military coup on 18 September 1988, the army started to crackdown on the demonstrators by arresting and torturing them.

Tens of thousands of students, high school pupils and even monks fled into the jungles situated near the neighbouring countries such as Thailand, China and India. On 1 November 1988, with the help of the Karen National Union (KNU), student leaders were able to form an armed group at one of the KNU’s Head Quarters Kawmoora (Wankha), situated on the Thai-Burma border. Their main purpose was to fight the ruling military junta alongside other armed ethnic groups for the emergence of democracy and freedom in Burma.

 Today, the ABSDF focus is on the dissemination of information and the delivery of food and medical aid to Burma’s displaced populations in the border regions and the hope for democracy and human rights in Burma.

The photos satirized in this series were taken between 1997 & 1998.

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

Contact, the annual festival of photography in Toronto, during the month of May, with over 1000 local, national and international artists exhibiting at almost 200 venues is almost here and I am having a solo exhibition at The Cabinet Salon.

It’s been ages since I’ve shown work on my own and I’m excited to exhibit a modest collection of new works during the Contact Photography Festival.

Modern Canadian Interiors
Photography by Richelle Forsey
May 1 – June 30, 2012
The Cabinet Salon, 577 Queen Street West
Hours: Tues- Fri:10am – 8pm & Sat: 10am – 5pm
Opening Reception: Thursday May 3, from 6 – 9pm


Richelle Forsey promo postcard

The Merlin Years : The Art of Team Macho II @ The shopAGO

Today I had a sneak peek at The Merlin Years : The Art of Team Macho II while I was visiting my friend Melinda Josie (also a wonderful illustrator and artist!) and it is beautiful!

Not only am I excited about the book because it’s Team Macho and their work is genius/amazing/hilarious/edgy/awesome (if you’re not familiar with the collective mind power that is the work of Nicholas Aoki, Stephen Appleby-Barr, Christopher Buchan, and Lauchie Reid you need to get googling…) I’m psyched because it includes the photos I shot of their studio that I blogged about last year. The book also features the latest Team Macho family portrait we shot last month (see below)!

You too, can get your copy of The Merlin Years: the Art of Team Macho II this Thursday (March 22, 2012) at the book launch and signing at the shopAGO!


Team Macho family portrait

 UPDATE (March 23): The smell of a freshly pressed book is intoxicating and at 7am this morning I got high on the fumes of a new book and looked at pictures by and read about Team Macho.  The Merlin Years is absolutely gorgeous and a solid read. The Deep in the Shirt Yurt interview with Maggie MaDonald is wonderfully candid, the essay, Being Macho by A. James Bradley does a justice to their practice that is so often missed when their work is reviewed or discussed and the Axis Mundy DIY Guide by Ann Marie Peña strings the book, their practice, ideas and methods together. Oh, and the pictures are pretty sweet!