Annice Lyn is a professional photojournalist who was once a figure skater at the national level. She was the first and only Malaysian female photographer whose work was accredited for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, 2018.
Lyn is currently a Canon Malaysia EOS Youth Ambassador, a notable Southeast Asia Women of the Future Award 2020 laureate, and a co-founder of Women Photographers Malaysia which seeks to develop an inclusive culture through visual storytelling. Lyn’s notable work includes the TIME magazine April 2021 cover for the “Climate is Everything” Issue as well as her recent work covering the 2022 Olympics. She is also one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Asia 2021, an honor she was given for her advocacy in bridging the gaps in gender equality.
From on the Rink to in the Press Box
For three years from 2007 to 2009 — when she was between 15 and 17 years old — Lyn was a national-level figure skater for Malaysia in active competition. She balanced her competition with schoolwork with the intent to enter a university while still skating.
When she was 19, that changed after she collided with another skater and injured her knee, leaving her unable to walk for three weeks.
“My father sat me down and asked me to think it through, as pursuing Winter Sports in a tropical equatorial climate country has its limitations and restrictions in terms of accessing an Olympic size rink (we did not have one at that time), resources, facilities, coaches and so on,” Lyn tells PetaPixel.
Lyn hung up her competitive skates and focused on her architecture degree in college, but did not give up taking to the ice for enjoyment. Her former coach approached her one day to ask her if she was interested in coaching and bringing up the next generation of figure skaters in Malaysia, which was when she realized there was very little awareness of the sport in her country. To help, Lyn decided to focus on making visuals with the little knowledge she had of photography that she picked up while at university to show prospective skaters what they could do if they took up the sport, from training to the friendships and bonds that they could form.
She worked with her coach to secure a vendor position to cover competitions as a photographer the following year, worked her way to become the official Malaysian Team photographer at the Southeast Asia Games, and eventually continued that track to become the team’s official photographer for Four Continent Figure Skating Championship, Worlds, and eventually the Olympics.
“I learned as I went, looking up on Google, YouTube, and obtaining knowledge from onsite photographers who are willing to help as well as valuable advice from Canon CPS as well as practice in local rinks when I was home,” Lyn says.
Lyn has worked her way up to become a “Stringer” for Getty Images — a freelance photographer who works for an agency and is paid by the photo — and covered Beijing 2022 as a special features and news story contributor, where she uses a documentary point of view to capture action and context.
Lyn’s history with figure skating has given her a unique perspective as a sports photographer, one she says she uses at events like the Olympics.
“[I understand] the athletes and what they are going through while trying my best to transpose them into imagery,” she says.
“For instance, knowing there is a moment where each and every skater has their personal ritual of prayers between moments when their names were announced and before they marked their spot. That’s something beautiful to immortalize them in a frame.”
“Through visual storytelling, I am able to (or hope to) cement the identity of future athletes to make them feel like they have been seen, heard, and understood,” she says.
“As a photographer, I believe that photography is a tool for change, now more than ever, by capturing the present and preserving the past with the ability to impact and unite people with great magnitude, especially through these challenging times.”
Lyn says that for her, it’s not just enough to take photos; her photos have to be meaningful to the people in them.
“I don’t want to just capture action photos, but photos that are able to impact others. For instance, an athlete from my home country Farah Abdul Hadi so sweetly and kindly said that the visual I captured is not just a photo, but a vision of her dreams she pours so much hard work in over the years as well as her core team (parents, family, coaches, officials).”
A Call for More Women to Take Up The Camera
Lyn says that while gender equality has taken major steps in recent years in photography, she has found that the Olympics are still extremely male-dominated.
“When I covered the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018, I learned through the International Olympic Committee breakdown of validated press accreditations that 2,309 (80.9 percent) were male and 544 (19.1 percent) were female. Within the 544 women, only 77 (10.3 percent) were accredited female photographers out of the total of 744 photographers from 50 countries. I was one of the 77 accredited female photographers in the global event,” she says.
“While gender equality has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, these statistics illustrate that inequality still persists in the realm of visual culture and that there is a chronic lack of diversity and visibility of women in the photography industry,” Lyn continues
“The fact that women are underrepresented within the sports media space reflects the same reality in other industries. As we are collectively working on championing gender equality, especially towards education and opportunity, it is too important that we keep in mind to not step into a reverse gender inequality of oppressing men just to lift ourselves (women) up. We should learn how men can become better allies to women in support of what we do and empower fellow women by encouraging them to find strength within in order to start putting themselves forward. I did see some improvement in Tokyo 2022 and Beijing 2022 [in this regard].”
Lyn encourages other women who want to pursue a career in documentary photography and photojournalism to do so, and they can practice and hone their craft at home.
“Capturing an athlete and their core team’s (family and coaches) journey of participation on a world stage competition took 15 years of hard work and ups and down to get there with only a few minutes to prove [my skill] to the judges and audience,” she says.
“My advice to anyone who wanted to cover events like this or to start shooting sports is to start from home. Your park, local schools, and community sports associations. Believe in budding athletes. Watch them at local competitions because you never know where they will be in two or three years’ time and as a photographer living in parallel lives, as your subject grow, you grow as well.”
Image credits: All photos by and provided courtesy of Annice Lyn.