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"Open House" Exhibition at Gerðuberg Culture House, Reykjavik

Added on by Annie Ling.

My series Open House is currently on view as a solo exhibition in Reykjavik all summer long, coinciding with this year's Nordic Conference Roots & Wings. If you're flocking to Iceland for the summer, hope you can stop by! 

"Moments From The Life Of Asylum Seekers In Iceland" will be at Gerðuberg Culture House until the end of August. The Culture House hours are Monday to Thursday from 10:00-18:00 and Friday from 11:00-18:00. 

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"Open House" exhibition walkthrough in Djúpavík, Iceland

Added on by Annie Ling.

The old herring factory in Djúpavík (tucked in the remote West Fjords of Iceland) provides an inspiring setting to debut my latest photo series from Iceland: OPEN HOUSE

Each year, the population of roughly 300,000 inhabitants in Iceland triples with tourists arriving from around the globe seeking breathtaking vistas and itineraries packed with otherworldly tours of lava-fields, glaciers, and waterfalls. This year, an unprecedented seven hundred asylum seekers are expected to arrive in the island nation just south of the Arctic Circle, doubling last year’s count. The majority end up in Iceland after their intended destination to the United States, Canada, or the UK is denied. A few sheltered in hostels among tourists and the rest isolated, asylum seekers predominately from the Balkans and the Middle East wait months before few are granted residency. How do asylum seekers experience Iceland in limbo? How do resettled refugees adapt and make a home here? Is this paradise or is this purgatory?

Five years on the Syrian conflict

Added on by Annie Ling.

In 2014, displaced Syrians in neighboring southern Turkey welcomed me into their temporary homes. I met widows who shared not just their fear of the future for their families but also shared what little they have left to help other Syrians in need. Determined peers worn down by war considered the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in search of stability and acceptance. In midst of trauma and rage over the senseless cost of the conflict, there was a serious display of illegitimi non carborundum style resilience and solidarity. 

Not long after, a partnership with ACTED, a french humanitarian NGO delivering emergency relief and logistical support internationally, led me to work in Syrian refugee camps and IDP (internally displaced people) camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Witnessing thousands in limbo living off limited rations for years throw a feast together at a moment's notice when a new influx of long-traveled, tired and hungry Kobani refugees arrive at Kawergosk Camp was incredibly moving—something I'll never forget. 

When I returned home to New York and unpacked my gear, I struggled with the meaning of the limited time I was able to spend there. Recurring headlines and news footage from the conflict confirms what we already know—that this is one of the most desperate humanitarian crisis of our time. What spending time with Syrian friends confirmed for me however, is that relationships bridge divide and understanding. "A tragedy of this scale demands solidarity beyond funding. Put simply, we need more countries to share the load by taking a greater share of refugees from what has become the biggest displacement crisis of a generation," to quote Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees.

As this conflict continues past its five year mark, I hope we will work harder to welcome and forge relationships with those on the outside. To isolate individuals is to isolate the tragedy and ultimately overlook our shared humanity.

Below are a few images from Syrian refugee camps in Iraq made in the fall of 2014:

TNY Photo Booth Hall of Fame

Added on by Annie Ling.

My editor at The New Yorker informed me not long ago that Independent Mothers made it into Photo Booth's top ten hall of fame for most clicks, and was picked up by The New York Times in their “What We’re Reading” column. Internazionale in Italy and the Stuttgarter Zeitung in Germany was also quick to pick up the series. The overall response to this project has been overwhelming, and I believe the interest is due largely to the project's ability to highlight the strength and independence of single mothers in Iceland while bringing to question the treatment of single mothers elsewhere. Mere minutes after the post went online, the Embassy of Iceland in the US re-tweeted it, lauding "the strong women of Iceland", setting an example for the rest.

"Awhereness" project featured today on Feature Shoot

Added on by Annie Ling.

Thank you Feature Shoot and Sukruti Anah Staneley for writing this feature! Excerpt from FS:

"For her work Awhereness, Annie Ling, a Taipei-born photographer from New York, spent two months traveling through parts of Romania and Moldova to meet with the survivors of sex trafficking and listen to their stories. Using a medium format camera, Ling tries to eschew sensational images and instead approaches her subjects with a sense of quiet, acting as a listener. Through her project, she focuses on where trafficking happens and how people overcome this chapter in their life. Ling’s work traces the effect of such spaces on these women and how it shapes them."

Awhereness is currently on view as part of Take Ten, a group exhibition at ICP, from January 17 – March 15, 2015.


The aftermath of the Syrian conflict

Added on by Annie Ling.

This September, I had the privilege of meeting and working with displaced Syrian women seeking refuge in neighboring Turkey. Their stories and resilience is moving, and being a witness to women supporting women in displaced communities is what I hope to continue doing, as soon as I can find more funding and support to go back and expand the work in other neighboring countries.

In the meantime, here is a first preview of the beginning of this ongoing project, which was made possible thanks to the NYFA Photography Fellowship

Zayid, 3-days-old. His father and 4-year-old brother went for haircuts nine months ago in Aleppo and never returned home.


Zayid, 3-days-old. His father and 4-year-old brother went for haircuts nine months ago in Aleppo and never returned home.

Three days before Zayid was born, I met Souad (pictured right), 23-years-old from Aleppo, with her eldest daughter (left) and two other children in a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Souad was married at 15 to a distant relative who tortured her. Nine months ago, her husband and son went missing during a bombing and Souad believes she would never see them again. Without documents, she smuggled into Turkey  five months ago  with her three remaining children and a fourth son on the way, seeking support and work to provide for her family.


Three days before Zayid was born, I met Souad (pictured right), 23-years-old from Aleppo, with her eldest daughter (left) and two other children in a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Souad was married at 15 to a distant relative who tortured her. Nine months ago, her husband and son went missing during a bombing and Souad believes she would never see them again. Without documents, she smuggled into Turkey five months ago with her three remaining children and a fourth son on the way, seeking support and work to provide for her family.

Ragda (36) and her 7-months pregnant daughter Nora (19) at a shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Ragda lost her husband and two sons in a barrel bomb attack in her old neighborhood in Syria. "We cannot make plans for our future until Syria is whole again." - Ragda S.


Ragda (36) and her 7-months pregnant daughter Nora (19) at a shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Ragda lost her husband and two sons in a barrel bomb attack in her old neighborhood in Syria. "We cannot make plans for our future until Syria is whole again." - Ragda S.

Kilis, a Turkish city near the border with Syria has experienced a significant influx of Syrian refugees in recent years. 


Kilis, a Turkish city near the border with Syria has experienced a significant influx of Syrian refugees in recent years. 

Syrian women refugees at a beauty school in a center offering job training for displaced Syrians looking for work in Kilis, Turkey. 


Syrian women refugees at a beauty school in a center offering job training for displaced Syrians looking for work in Kilis, Turkey. 

Ibtesam (40), an english teacher from Aleppo, fled to Kilis seeking medical help after a bomb dropped on her home  killed her 11-year-old daughter Iman and left her other daughter Aya (14) injured with a broken skull and consequently amnesia. "I lived a normal and simple life in Syria" says Ibtesam, who was pro-revolution because she wanted a better life for her children. Now, she visits the center for displaced Syrian women in Kilis daily to learn hairdressing, in hopes of finding work to support her family. Ibtesam's name in Arabic means "smile".


Ibtesam (40), an english teacher from Aleppo, fled to Kilis seeking medical help after a bomb dropped on her home  killed her 11-year-old daughter Iman and left her other daughter Aya (14) injured with a broken skull and consequently amnesia. "I lived a normal and simple life in Syria" says Ibtesam, who was pro-revolution because she wanted a better life for her children. Now, she visits the center for displaced Syrian women in Kilis daily to learn hairdressing, in hopes of finding work to support her family. Ibtesam's name in Arabic means "smile".

Omsami (meaning "mother of Sami") 55-years-old from the countryside of Aleppo currently lives with her daughter-in-law and four grandchildren at a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Here, she caresses a photograph of her son Sami who was killed by the Assad regime while fighting for the FSA (Free Syrian Army) nearly two years ago. 


Omsami (meaning "mother of Sami") 55-years-old from the countryside of Aleppo currently lives with her daughter-in-law and four grandchildren at a shelter for Syrian widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. Here, she caresses a photograph of her son Sami who was killed by the Assad regime while fighting for the FSA (Free Syrian Army) nearly two years ago. 

Azza (19) and her sister Lamiaa (20) left Aleppo with their family in 2011 because of bombing in their neighborhood. They hope to continue studies in medicine, but their savings have dried up since leaving Syria and they have no work and income to continue their education or support their seven younger brothers. "Our father is very angry because he cannot make his family happy, and mother is sad because she cannot give the boys what they ask for." - Lamiaa A.


Azza (19) and her sister Lamiaa (20) left Aleppo with their family in 2011 because of bombing in their neighborhood. They hope to continue studies in medicine, but their savings have dried up since leaving Syria and they have no work and income to continue their education or support their seven younger brothers. "Our father is very angry because he cannot make his family happy, and mother is sad because she cannot give the boys what they ask for." - Lamiaa A.

Iman, 51-years-old from Damascus, battled a serious case of cancer in her backbone for 20 years until 2011 when she was miraculously healed. Her fight with cancer ended as the revolution and fighting began in Syria. As her neighborhood was stormed and civilians were massacred, she worked as a nurse to aid the injured, putting to practice everything she learned from years of undergoing cancer treatment as a hospitalized patient. 


Iman, 51-years-old from Damascus, battled a serious case of cancer in her backbone for 20 years until 2011 when she was miraculously healed. Her fight with cancer ended as the revolution and fighting began in Syria. As her neighborhood was stormed and civilians were massacred, she worked as a nurse to aid the injured, putting to practice everything she learned from years of undergoing cancer treatment as a hospitalized patient. 

Iman reveals a scar from backbone cancer surgery. Her wound reopened in prison, where she was tortured and suffered electric shock in sensitive areas of her body for four months. Iman and her daughter were arrested on June 1st, 2013 by the regime when she was caught smuggling medical supplies, food and water to injured civilians.   


Iman reveals a scar from backbone cancer surgery. Her wound reopened in prison, where she was tortured and suffered electric shock in sensitive areas of her body for four months. Iman and her daughter were arrested on June 1st, 2013 by the regime when she was caught smuggling medical supplies, food and water to injured civilians.   

Iman took advantage of her foreign appearance to smuggle supplies for civilians in need during the revolution. On April 13, 2014, Iman smuggled herself and two girlfriends into Turkey, looking for work and surviving off of $30USD monthly UN food vouchers. A social worker (also  a Syrian refugee)  found Iman and offered her a place to stay at her barely furnished apartment in Kilis. Here, she settles into an empty room with her backpack and few possessions.


Iman took advantage of her foreign appearance to smuggle supplies for civilians in need during the revolution. On April 13, 2014, Iman smuggled herself and two girlfriends into Turkey, looking for work and surviving off of $30USD monthly UN food vouchers. A social worker (also a Syrian refugee) found Iman and offered her a place to stay at her barely furnished apartment in Kilis. Here, she settles into an empty room with her backpack and few possessions.

Fathya (25) from Azaz, Syria at a shelter for widows in Gaziantep. Fathya was married for eleven years to a man who treated her brutally with insults and beatings. Her husband and two sons died in the first barrel bombing attack on Syria in August 2012. Barrel bomb attacks throughout Syria have killed more than 20,000 people since the conflict began in March 2011. 


Fathya (25) from Azaz, Syria at a shelter for widows in Gaziantep. Fathya was married for eleven years to a man who treated her brutally with insults and beatings. Her husband and two sons died in the first barrel bombing attack on Syria in August 2012. Barrel bomb attacks throughout Syria have killed more than 20,000 people since the conflict began in March 2011. 

A shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. 


A shelter for widows in Gaziantep, Turkey. 

Fathya (25), suffers verbal and physical abuse from her younger 17-year-old brother, who has been designated by her family to keep an eye on her. When this image was made, she was waiting to hear if her family would accept a marriage proposal from a 60-year-old Turkish man to take Fathya on as a second wife. She does not want to marry again, but her family insists that she does and forbids her to study. "Maybe if I was educated, my whole life would be different." Fathya would go through a bad marriage again to escape her overprotective family. (Last I heard, a woman running this women's center had convinced Fathya's family to decline the Turkish man's proposal.)


Fathya (25), suffers verbal and physical abuse from her younger 17-year-old brother, who has been designated by her family to keep an eye on her. When this image was made, she was waiting to hear if her family would accept a marriage proposal from a 60-year-old Turkish man to take Fathya on as a second wife. She does not want to marry again, but her family insists that she does and forbids her to study. "Maybe if I was educated, my whole life would be different." Fathya would go through a bad marriage again to escape her overprotective family. (Last I heard, a woman running this women's center had convinced Fathya's family to decline the Turkish man's proposal.)

Late afternoon in Kilis, a Turkish city near the Syrian border.


Late afternoon in Kilis, a Turkish city near the Syrian border.

The war in Syria has displaced more than 9 million internally while each day, families and a majority of Syrian women and children join the near 3 million seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Syria, the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today, now enters its fourth year. 

Gender-based violence, one of the world’s most widespread human rights violations and public health issues, escalates among displaced communities. As the Syrian refugee population continues to grow exponentially and resources have begun to diminish, harsh living conditions and circumstances impose a threat to young women who may face increased pressure to enter into early marriages. Women whose often forced reliance on male family members leave them isolated at home and removed from public safe-spaces to socialize. A UNHCR’s Participatory Assessment found “Women spoke openly about how their husbands were physically or emotionally abusive, with many stating that such behavior results from an increased level of tension due to poor living conditions and the current crisis in Syria.”