In Conversation with Alana Holmberg
“I wanted the images I selected to give the audience a new thought about the place or culture the images was showing,” said Alana, who was particularly drawn to images by Michael Vince Kim from his series on Korean-Cubans.
Shortly after Alana selected a portrait from Vince Kim’s series, the photographer won first place in World Press Photo’s “People” category. “The colors and emotion communicated through that portrait really caught my attention and I love that Michael took the time to explain the image and the scope of the project he’s working on in the caption.”
Though drawn to the aesthetics of an image, Alana also looked to captions when considering which photographs to feature. Because she was drawn to “more poetic or lyrical imagery,” providing information was key. “Context is very important for me, particularly when thinking about challenging stereotypes.”
Alana noticed that a large number of images hashtagged with #EverydayEverywhere hailed from Turkey, a country that is the focus of her most recent documentary project.
Ironically, it was a hashtag that brought her to Turkey in 2015 after seeing a post on Twitter of a young woman laughing with the Turkish words #direnkahkaha, or “resist laughter,” also the title of her project. Since then she has continued to focus on how political changes and recent current events in Turkey are impacting the country’s women’s rights movement.
“I felt it necessary to broaden the project to consider how this kind of increasingly conservative political and social environment impacts the experiences of women — on the streets, in homes, in relationships — as told to me by those fighting for gender equality,” said Alana, who received The Pool Grant in 2016 for this work.
The award includes an exhibition at the Head on Photo Festival in Sydney, Australia, which officially opens Thursday and runs through May 17. “It will be my first solo exhibition, so I’m really excited [and] nervous about it,” said Alana.
Before deciding to pursue documentary photography at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, Alana worked in communications strategy and digital content for NGOs for six years. Her education helped her foster the confidence that there is indeed a space for her voice and it also provided a supportive community “that remain very close friends today.”
In 2016, Alana joined Australia’s Oculi documentary photography collective. The 18-year-old collective includes past and present members such as Trent Parke, Andrew Quilty, Lee Grant and Raphaela Rosella, who Alana says have greatly inspired her work.
“From the moment I became interested in documentary photography, Oculi became my benchmark for visual storytelling in Australia, so I was thrilled to be accepted into the group. It’s been wonderful to connect with like-minded photographers and support each other.”
“I was interested in social justice issues and found photography as a way to contribute to conversations around issues I cared about.”