Annie Flanagan – Deafening Sound

Makeup disguises Maria's fractured eye as she prepares to board a train home to Oregon from Williston, North Dakota. Maria moved to Wiliston less than a month prior to seek work in America's Boomtown.  Since the oil boom took off in 2009, domestic violence has quadrupled in Williston, North Dakota.  (Williston, North Dakota / February 2014)

Annie Flanagan

Deafening Sound

[ EPF 2016 WINNER ]

Deafening Sound examines the deep roots of gendered violence and rape culture in American society. Presently, it combines three documentary projects, a portrait series and a collection of artifacts. It is structured so that each chapter examines different ways systematic gendered violence persists in America. It aims to reduce the stigma of gendered violence, address the complicated cycle of abuse and elevate consciousness about the prevalence of rape culture.

This project began when my best friend, Hannah, left her abusive boyfriend. In this relationship she experienced long-term exposure to emotional trauma, where she had little control and there was no hope of escape. This chapter (We Grew Up With Gum In Our Hair) and the accompanying video (Love, Hannah) focus on the correlation between domestic violence and PTSD.

In 2012, I began photographing with two sixteen year old best friends, Nekqua and Brittney, in Syracuse, New York. Months into this project both girls experienced sexual assault, in different experiences on the same day. This chapter (Hey, Best Friend!) works to understand the struggles young women must overcome in dealing with sexual assault.

Since 2013, I have worked closely with a women’s shelter in Williston, North Dakota. This chapter (Sweet Crude) follows survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault as they seek safety and support.

I am constantly working to further my investigation of this epidemic and visually address issues of gendered violence and representations of women in American society. If awarded the EPF, I will use a portion of the funding to continue working on and complete a film that follows Nekqua before, directly after and years after her assault. Additionally, I will photograph rural domestic violence in Alaska, where the rate of reported rape is three times the national average. If needed, I will shift to photograph rural domestic violence in the Dakotas, where I already have connections.



Short Bio

I picked up a camera in the 7th grade and it has since been the primary way in which I make sense of the world. I have had love affairs with other passions, but it has remained the only constant in my life.

I grew up in Washington, D.C. with amazing parents and three brothers and the constant, insane flux of friends and family. I have lived all over the United States; recently, I have mostly lived out of my car while working on projects. I am not used to having those quite moments in life, which I suppose is one reason I like to find those moments with photography.

My work focuses in American society and explores gender, mental health and friendship within the documentary framework. I tend to begin projects that are informed by experiences I have, or those close to me have, and then I look at how those expereinces exist on a large level and in different situations.

Right now, I live in New Orleans and try to keep life equal parts make believe and harsh realities.

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Annie Flanagan

9 Responses to “Annie Flanagan – Deafening Sound”

  • Interesting stuff despite the heavy relience on the text

  • We all know this is going on around us all the time – we see the lady at the store with the black eye, the man with the woman about whom he makes snide sexual innuendo posing as humor, the woman so deferential to the man she lives with or is married to that the fear shows through. But it is them, not us, and we have no proof and fell helpless to do anything about it so we just go on with life. Annie Flanagan has done something about it – brought it home, brought it home, provided proof.

    An award well-deserved. May your work go far, Annie, and help bring change in at least a few people’s lives.

  • Nice and very in-depth work, I really like it. But I dont really understand a thing, or at least I want to question it. Why are those in-frame sepia pictures made like that? I kinda understood that those are the survivors, but I still wanna know… why sepia and why “in frame”?


    Couldn’t be happier! and big big ups for the entire Boreal Family! :) :)

    much love

  • If a documentary of this type is to succeed with the general public the text needs to be integrated with the images instead of captions that continually disengage the audience. This is where the video is succeeds and the photographic still lose out.

  • I see this as a well-realized example of prestigious mainstream photography. It is a very serious topic treated very seriously and it is technically very well done. Congrats, and I certainly share the hope that it provides a positive influence on the lives of others, even if it’s limited to the subjects themselves.

    I want to tread carefully here. I’ve interviewed and photographed quite a few victims of abusive relationships and sexual violence, done quite a bit of research, and thought extensively about how to effectively communicate the issues I’ve uncovered while getting to know the women who suffer from these kinds of tragedies. I don’t feel that I’ve succeeded in this, nor do I think my work on the subject is “better” than Ms. Flanagan’s. And I did not submit it to the EPF.

    My critique in this case is that I see the these women as being portrayed one dimensionally, as little more than their identity as victims. We are shown nothing of these women’s hopes or dreams, or even their coping mechanisms. We are only shown, and told through the captions, grim details of their victimhood. On one hand, the idea that they are nothing more than their tragedy is not realistic, certainly not for every victim. On the other, depicting them that way is probably not very helpful. People, whether they are suffering, or considering the suffering of others, need to believe that there is a way forward. People, whether they are victims or philanthropists, need to see that there is hope. Though I guess if the intent of the work is entirely preventative rather than palliative, one could argue that hopelessness, whether realistic or not, might be more effective at spurring action? I don’t think so, but reasonable people can no doubt disagree.

    Anyway, it’s definitely good work and certainly a worthwhile investment by the EPF. I look forward to seeing how it progresses over the years.

  • Strong work indeed. Well thought out and empathetic to the subject so kudos on that. I too think that there is a huge reliance on explanatory text, but that’s a hard mountain to conquer I think, due to the heavy nature of the subject. I am glad to see some traditional PJ work get the award this yr vs. some ethereal uber-contemporary absolutely vague and pretentious series. Keep up the good work.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    Silent pain …no more !!!

  • Congratulations Annie.

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