Irina Unruh (1979) is a documentary photographer, originally from Kyrgyzstan. In 1988 at the age of 9 years, her family immigrated to Germany where she finished her school and university education. She studied Math, German and Theology to become a teacher. During the years she worked as a teacher in different countries (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Italy and Germany) she often encountered interesting persons and was always fascinated of their so divers biographies and stories. While she lived and worked for five years in Rome until August 2018 she discovered the camera as her instrument to tell these stories. In 2014 she began to expand her big passion for photography, decided to work only part-time as a teacher and developed seriously in the field of documentary photography. She participated as an autodidact in different workshops with Italian photojournalists, including Monika Bulaj and Karl Mancini.
She is currently based in Warendorf, Germany and is working on long term projects: Her photographical work focuses on the situation of women in her birth country Kyrgyzstan and on her own historical origins (German immigrants from former Soviet countries). Her work received first recognitions and was exhibited twice in Rome and in April 2019 at the Centre for Fine Arts “BOZAR” in Brussels. Her ongoing work was shortlisted for the KOLGA Tbilisi Photo Award and is exhibited in Tiflis, was shown in Verona at the international photo festival “Grenze arsenali fotografci” and was exhibited in Jakarta at the JIPFest 2019.
2019 - LuganoPhotoDays – "I am Jamilia" – Finalist, 2019 - LUCIE FOUNDATION scholarship, 2019 - KOLGA Tbilisi Photo – "I am Jamilia" – Finalist, 2019 - Verzasca Foto Festival Awards, 2019 - 13th Julia Margaret Cameron Award Exhibition, 2019 - SEnECA photo contest , 2019 - Athens Photo Festival - “I am Jamilia” - shortlist, 2018 - Moscow International Photography Awards - MIFA , 2019 - Alexia Foundation
Primula turkestanica from I am Jamilia
“I think my life with my husband was happy. In the beginning, it was tough. A new family, a new life, when he kidnapped me, but it was our tradition. If a man liked a woman, he kidnapped her. After one hard year of living together, I started to get used to him and to love my husband. We lived happily 30 years together and have three beautiful girls. I am grateful to my husband for our girls. Five years ago, we lost him, and it was challenging for me. I cried almost for one year and could not get used to life without him. Afterward, I retook courage and continued to live without him. Two of my daughters are married at their own choice. I have five grandchildren. My youngest daughter is a pupil of 10th grade at school. I live with my youngest daughter. It is such a pity that my husband left us so early. We remember him very often and love him”.
Cylindrocarpa from I am Jamilia
“I am against Ala Kachuu. The first time I was also kidnapped and had to stay there because I was afraid of our old generation. But the second time when I was abducted, I was brought to a very remote area. However, I denied to stay there and returned. I did not know him at all, and even I did not see him before. How could I stay there? So I returned home. Ala Kachuu destroys the lives of many young girls. Many suffer from it as I suffered from my abductions. After the second kidnapping, I became disillusioned. I hope this Kyrgyz tradition of bride kidnapping would soon fade”.
Iris narynensis from I am Jamilia
“I am dissatisfied with my life.and disappointed with my classmates. They supported the man to kidnap me. My father agreed to my forced marriage, so I had to stay there. But I didn't want to stay. It was so tense to live together. Ultimately, we divorced. Momentarily I live with my four children separately. I don't wish any other woman a life like mine. I wish young girls a happy life together with their beloved and children”.