Photographer shares photos of the Palaung and Shan women of Myanmar

One British photographer has captured the indigenous people of Myanmar in a series of stunning portrait photographs and video footage. The incredible images show Myanmar people going about their daily business while others show the tattooed Chin women who use sharp thorns and soot to tattoo their faces.

Indigenous woman in Myanmar. Image by Dan O’Donnell /

The insightful photographs were taken by Scottish photographer Dan O’Donnell (26), from Glasgow, as he made his way through Myanmar. “I’ve been documenting the traditional way of life of the Palaung and Shan tribes who have settled within the mountains of the Shan State, in the North-East of Myanmar,” he said. “The Palaung are one of the most ancient hill tribes in Myanmar and are famous for the tea they grow and cure to sell, particularly the pickled tea (lepet) which is popular across the country.

Myanmar people going about their daily business. Image by Dan O’Donnell /

“Palaung women stand out among the other hill tribes for their colourful traditional dress. Their garments include velvet jackets of green, blue, or purple and lungi (a type of sarong) fastened with belts. Most Shan people live today in much the same way as they always have. The majority live in small, rural villages where they farm subsistence and cash crops such as rice and tropical and sub-tropical fruit and vegetables.”

He took the photos as he made his way through Myanmar. Image by Dan O’Donnell /

Dan, who took the photographs with a Nikon D610, has been travelling across Asia and also explored the Chin State in Myanmar.
“Chin legend says that many years ago a Burmese king visited the area and kidnapped the women, believing them to be the most beautiful in Myanmar,” he added. “To prevent any future kidnappings, the Chin women began to tattoo their faces using sharp thorns from the local vegetation and using leaves and soot for the colour and disinfectant.  “There are six different Chin tribes, and each tribe has a specific design which tend to cover the entire face, and sometimes reach down to the neck. The Burmese government banned this old tradition in the 1960s, so the women that I had the privilege of photographing will be the last faces of Chin history to bear this tradition.”

The tattooed Chin women who use sharp thorns and soot to tattoo their faces. Image by Dan O’Donnell /

Dan also explained why he loves this type of photography and the kindness of the Burmese people. “It really gets me as close as possible to the indigenous people and their traditional lifestyles,” he said. “I get invited into their homes; they feed me with their delicious traditional food and provide me with a bed. I have a short but meaningful connection with almost every person I have the privilege of photographing. “Sometimes this can be a stronger connection if I have the chance of hearing their life stories, or even some I’ve had the honour of dancing with at village festivals.
“To have the chance of documenting all these different native tribes living their daily lives, and being accepted as one of their own really makes me love doing this type of photography. You learn new languages, taste different food, wear clothes you never thought you would ever wear and gain so much fresh knowledge on how different cultures live their daily lives. Myanmar may be the most hospitable country I’ve visited yet. The Burmese people take genuine generosity to another level.”

By Mark McConville/

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Photographer shares photos of the Palaung and Shan women of Myanmar
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