Nicole Tung
As Strong as the War, As Soft as the Peace

What does the moment of transition between the end of a conflict and the return to “normal” life look like? These pictures form part of an ongoing project on the consequences of the wars against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), wars that are bringing long-term changes to society. From 2014 until 2019, territories in both countries were controlled by the so-called caliphate of ISIS until the extremist group was ultimately driven out in the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani. Thousands of civilian victims were the price that was paid. They died, were expelled or were exiled. The survivors now bear the burden as they try to rebuild their country, for many cities and communities, even months after liberation, resemble lunar landscapes. However, shops are reopening, and everyday life is slowly returning. Despite this seeming normality, dissatisfaction remains for many of those who have lost everything and must nonetheless carry on. If reconstruction does not proceed quickly, if people do not have work or a roof over their heads, this could provide fertile ground for new conflicts.

  • Crisis
  • Everyday Life
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • The Future
  • War

»I think it´s really important to not only show suffering and destruction in the story, there is destruction, but I think it was important to show the context of the destruction and how civilians, people and humanity fit into that situation.«

Nicole Tung

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Photojournalist Nicole Tung speaks about her project As Strong as the War, As Soft as the Peace.

3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

A formative moment in my career as a visual journalist was when I was still a student, in my first year at university. I had just finished interviewing women who had survived the genocide in Srebrenica, at a camp for internally displaced persons, when I photographed the group of women together. I am a self-taught photographer, and at that point I hadn’t quite decided if I wanted to be a writer or full-time photographer – but something about that moment – the women’s expressions, their emotion, their collective stories – and of course the influence of art and so many accomplished photographers before me culminated in me making that decision to be dedicated to photography.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

The exhibition is showing work on the immediate aftermath of the war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It was about asking, “what does that transitional moment – between the end of the conflict and a return to ‘normal’ life – look like?” The images are part of a project exploring the legacy of conflicts that are constantly reshaping the demographics, society, and livelihoods of the people enduring seemingly endless war. I had been covering the conflict in Syria since 2012, and felt that it was necessary to document the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria and what came after it, through 2016 until now.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

There could be so many directions! AR and VR are already becoming a part of it, but it is a matter of accessibility. There are so many wonderful initiatives to bring the still image to the public, other than in traditional mediums such as physical and online newspapers and magazines – pasting single photos with a long caption in areas near schools, using social media to elevate certain stories and ways of exploring more. The options are endless, but I think the more concerning issue is how we can sustain the use of imagery in a way that supports the visual artists/journalists and educating people about why imagery should be protected.

Curated by Lucas Bäuml

© for all photos by the photographers
© for all videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1986 in Hong Kong
After completing a double degree in Journalism and History, Nicole Tung began working in 2009 as a freelance photojournalist for international media and NGOs in the conflict zones of the Middle East. She is interested in the consequences of war such as migration and post-traumatic stress among veterans, human rights and women’s rights in particular. For her reports on conflict, she won the 2018 James Foley Award as well as an honourable mention at the Anja Niedringhaus Award.


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