48 women. 48 unimaginable stories. It is their scars which make people look at them. They are openly stared at or eyed discretely. It is easier for society to ignore those that are different. They are excluded and therefore have become invisible. Survivors of fire and acid attacks do not only suffer from their scars for their whole life. Above all, it is our reactions which are pushing them to the edge of society.
Ann-Christine Woehrl visited survivors of fire and acid attacks in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Uganda. The photographer has portrayed the women on their paths back to life. She does not present them as tragic victims, but as the personalities they have always been and still are despite their unimaginable suffering. The result is an insightful – almost private – album, that challenges and most of all inspires. It is an homage to women that master their unique lives with humility and heroic strength.
"People just have to accept me the way I am. And I actually love myself now. I have learned to appreciate inner beauty more, even in other people. So I am trying to be proud of what is in my heart." Flavia, Uganda
It is precisely this openness and vitality that the photographer wanted to portray. She set out to present each survivor as an individual, way beyond their collective stigma as marked women, and to give each of them a face again, to make them visible. By choosing a neutral black background for the portraits in the first part of the book, Ann-Christine Woehrl left out any reference to the social environment of these women and provided them with a safe and also special – even solemn – frame. A frame within which they could pose and present themselves as they saw fit and not as victims.
In the second part of the book, Ann-Christine Woehrl takes a closer look at one survivor in each of the six countries, whom she has accompanied over a longer period, and captures her everyday life, her will to survive, her steps back into life, moments of hopelessness and despair as well as those of joy and happiness.
The photographic work is framed by an essay and six interviews with the six women, conducted and written down by Laura Salm-Reifferscheidt.
EXHIBITION UN/SICHTBAR - Frauen Überleben Säure
State Museum for Ethnology in Munich, 6 June 2014 – 11 January 2015
The Operators Creative In light of the worrying increase of attacks in Europe, ASTI has partnered with Belgian survivor Patricia Lefranc who was attacked in 2009, to campaign for a Europe wide change in the law to restrict the easy accessibility of acid. The campaign video was made by The Operators Creative with music provided by Ann-Christine Woehrl and features Patricia calling for an end to acid violence. Click here to open in a new window.