About – History – FAQ – Team

Photo of first Documentary Arts Asia workshop in Dec 2008 – Laiza -Kachin State – Burma


Documentary Arts Asia is a non profit organization focused on training, mentoring & supporting documentary photographers & film-makers to tell stories from across Asia that need to be heard.

We provide exhibitions, awards, workshops and access to funding & matertials so that documentary artists have worldclass backing & support for them to develop & actualize their potential as leading story tellers within the region & beyond. 

The success of DocArtsAsia’s allumni can be attributed to our commitment to following up with participants & continued support throughout their developing careers.

Our vision is to allow Asian stories to be told by local people, allowing them to construct & control their own narratives, as they see fit.

Documentary Arts Asia is under the umbrella of Sulak Sivaraksa’s Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation (SNF), one of the most established, active and respected foundations native to Southeast Asia. This relationship gives DAA a broad network to synergize with and a firm legal standing as a recognized non-profit foundation able to accept tax deductible donations.


Since 2008 Documentary Arts Asia has been serving aspiring documentary photographers from all parts of Asia with workshops, grants, gear loans and organizing exhibitions.

In the first 3 years DocArtsAsia learned a lot through experimenting and research we refine our teaching methods and decided to add many more services that were needed transform our students into world-class photographers, such as a photobook library, cinema, Artist in residency, Specialized and advanced workshops, Long-term mentoring, Training of Trainers and a physical center and gallery to exhibit long term documentary projects.

In 2011 DocArtsAsia won the Howard Chapnick Grant, from the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund. The Chanpnick grant played a vital role in the initial expansion of our services and gave a morale boost to our organization to continue working hard in pursuit of our goals and vision.

Just a month after opening the beautiful gallery / cinema to an impressive crowd of people hungry for quality long-term documentary photo and film projects, DocArtsAsia launched a new major program. The Chiang Mai Documentary Arts Festival which was one of, if not the first event of its kind to combine documentary photo festival with a documentary film festival.

Six months after opening the center DocArtsAsia was graced by the presence of many top photojournalists while hosting the Foundry Photojournalism Workshops which was attended by 160 incredible aspiring documentary photographers from Asia and beyond.

For the next year DocArtsAsia kept a very active program of events, workshops, exhibitions and films at it’s Chiang Mai center while continuing to make regular trips to Laiza, Kachin State Burma. Finally feeling that Laiza students were ready for their own center,  with the help of Internews, DocArtsAsia opened its second center.


Q – How is DAA funded?

A – DAA is an not for profit organization and we received limited funding to start the physical center/gallery.

In addition to grants DAA strives to make much of it’s own funding.  This gives us more independence and also assures we are working at a professional levels and making sure our services are valued.

As of now we have no further external funding and it limits us to mostly things the market will support.  We want a balanced approach, to do activities the market will support in the market, but also have grant money to tap into for activities the market will not support.

Our Team

Francis Wilmer

Francis Wilmer is a British documentary producer, writer and photographer. His work spans multiple disciplines focusing on identity, class, indigenous rights and struggles for self determination. He’s focused on Kachin issues and the Burma peace process, working in journalism, media development and advocacy in Burma and the wider region. He has been working in Kachin related DocArtsAsia projects since 2015.


Ryan Libre

Ryan is a documentary photographer and founder of Documentary Arts Asia. He’s been shooting and living part time in Kachin State since 2008. Ryan’s photography has been exhibited in over 20 galleries across the world, including The Nikon Salon and Fuji Film Salon. He’s the winner of the Nikon Inspiration award and has received grants from the Pulitzer center & the W.Eugene Smith Fund as well as having given several TEDx talks.


John Freeco

John is as ethnic Karenni born in Burma, he lived in the refugee camps along the Thai border. His journalistic talent landed him a job with the Karenni news service, and a scholarship in Communications at Rangsit University, Bangkok. He came through the DocArtsAsia mentoring and workshops, taking part in a 1 year mentoring program and recently finished working as a producer and fixer with an international film crew on the documentary ‘Like We Don’t Exist’, which he followed up with a TEDxUC San Diego talk.


Ryan Libre – ryan@doc-arts.asia

Francis Wilmerfrancis@doc-arts.asia

FaceBook – @DocumentaryArtsAsia


Where DocArtsAsia works

over 100 Exhibitions in Chiang Mai

FCCT Exhibitions

Suwon Festival

Dali Photo

Kyotographie Festival Portfolio Reviews

Laiza Center

BookShowcase @ Yangon Photo

KL photo festival Exhibition

Pingyao photo festival Portfolio reviews

Workshop in Taiwan

Myitkyina exhibitions

Jinju exhibitions

Luang Prabang Workshops

Olympic Peace Workshop

Battambang workshop

Gave free Scholarship for Foundry Workshop

Workshops with Kachin Refugees

Laiza Gallery / Center

DocArtsAsia Laiza Center

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