Liam Maloney
Liam Maloney

Texting Syria is an installation exploring the experience of Syrian refugees in the context of connectivity in the digital age. In these portraits, Syrians in Lebanon fleeing the civil war back home use mobile phones to stay in touch with their families who remain under siege in the city of Homs. A mundane and ubiquitous act — checking or sending a text message — is transformed by war into communiqués that can be a matter of life and death.

Viewers are invited to connect to a remote SMS server that streams — directly to the viewer’s phone — a series of actual text messages that were received at the time the photographs were taken. In these messages, we get a glimpse of how technology can help people sustain their courage and dignity while caught in a horrific war.

My goal is to create an immersive experience that offers viewers a degree of intimacy often missing from media coverage of this enduring international crisis, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people to date and displaced millions. My work aims to question the expectations we have of documentary photography and considers parallel narratives that images alone cannot adequately represent.

Texting Syria is part of a larger ongoing body of work titled Material Remains, a multilayered interactive project about the plight of Syrian refugees and the traces that war leaves behind. Incorporating thermal imaging portraits, SMS messaging, lightboxes, video projections and audio narratives, Material Remains examines the Syrian conflict in ways that move beyond conventional methods of examining war. It is an attempt to compile a multi-sensory body of irrefutable evidence that archives the experiences of those who have lost everything in the Syrian war.

Artist Bios

  • Liam Maloney

    Liam Maloney (Canadian, b. 1975) is a Toronto-based documentary photographer working on stories about conflict and forced migration from the Middle East. Central themes in his work are the idea of home and its significance for those who have been displaced, as well as the intersection of technology and intimacy during wartime.

    His work has been commissioned and published by The Globe and Mail, TIME magazine, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, CBC, Mother Jones, La Maleta de Portbou, Maclean’s and many others. Maloney’s work has been exhibited at Images: Festival des Arts Visuels de Vevey (Switzerland), Nuit Blanche (Toronto), Moving Walls 23 (New York) and Le Mois de la Photo (Montreal), where his installation won the Dazibao Prize.

    Maloney was shortlisted for the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize (2014) and the Lucie Foundation Scholarship Program (2015). He has recently been nominated for the Tim Hetherington Visionary Award and Le Prix Pictet (2016). Previously, he was a nominee for the Joop Swart Masterclass and participated in the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2007. He holds a RISC certificate in battlefield medical response and is a member of the Frontline Freelance Network.


  • The Open Society Foundations

    The Open Society Foundations

    The Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, are the world’s largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights. George Soros opened his first international foundation in Hungary in 1984.

    Today, the Open Society Foundations support a vast array of projects in more than 120 countries, providing thousands of grants every year through a network of national and regional foundations and offices.

  • United Photo Industries (UPI)

    United Photo Industries (UPI)

    United Photo Industries (UPI) is a New York based nonprofit organization that works to promote a wider understanding of, and increased access to, the art of photography.

    Since its founding in 2011, UPI has rapidly solidified its position in the public art landscape by continuing to showcase thought-provoking, challenging, and exceptional photography from across the globe. In its first seven years, UPI has presented the work of more than 2,500 visual artists in gallery exhibitions and public art installations worldwide.

Texting Syria

 archive : 2016

Featuring: Liam Maloney

Presented by: The Open Society Foundations, United Photo Industries (UPI)
  • The Open Society Foundations
  • United Photo Industries (UPI)


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