Anja Niemi: 'The woman who never existed'


The Woman Who Never Existed by Anja Niemi was inspired by the words of the pioneering Italian actress Eleonora Duse. Eleonora worked the international theatre stage alongside Sara Bernhardt in the early 20th century. In contrast to Bernhardt's outgoing personality, Duse was introverted and private, rarely giving interviews. She once famously told a pushy New York journalist, that ‘away from the stage I do not exist.’ 


Niemi takes on the role of a fictional character visualized after reading Eleonora’s words. The Woman Who Never Existed tells the story of an actress who only exists in front of an audience, when no one is looking she starts to disappear.
In the same way as before Niemi works alone. Photographing, staging and acting out
the characters in all of her photographs.
Anja Niemi is an artist playing with notions of self-portraiture and self-identity. 
Niemi says her images merges darkness with humour. They hint to the disparity between who we are and how we want to be perceived.

Norwegian photographer Anja Niemi is considered ‘one of the most compelling modern artists working today’. (British Journal of Photography). Niemi always works alone. Photographing, staging and acting out the characters in all of her photographs.

Her critically acclaimed series: Do Not Disturb (2012), Starlets (2013), Darlene & Me (2015), and Short Stories (2016) has been exhibited at The Little Black Gallery, London. Darlene & Me was exhibited at Photo London (2015), and Short Stories premiered at Photo London (2016). Highlights from Do Not Disturb, Starlets, and Darlene & Me were exhibited in New York in March 2016, and at Salon Zurcher Photo in September 2016.

Niemi´s work is highly collectable – including being part of the Susanne von Meiss Collection (exhibited at C/O Berlin in 2016 with the accompanying book published by Kehrer). Her auction record was achieved in January 2017 when Room 81 (bed), from her Do Not Disturb series, sold for a record $7,000 (almost triple the retail price), by auction house Paddle8.

She has published two books: Photographing In Costume (The Little Black Gallery, 2015) and Short Stories (Jane & Jeremy, 2016). Her third The Woman Who Never Existed will be published by Jane & Jeremy in February 2017.


Niemi (b 1976) studied at the London College of Printing and Parsons School of Design in Paris and New York, lives in Norway.