In Conversation with Alana Holmberg

Alana Holmberg is an Australian documentary photographer and member of Oculi. Her project “Resist Laughter” will be exhibited at The Head On Photo Festival until May 17.

During Alana Holmberg’s curation of @EverydayEverywhere she was guided by context, subtlety and The Everyday Projects’ mission to challenge stereotypes in mainstream media.

“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.”

Photographs selected by Alana during her curation. From left to right: 1. “Sandra, a Korean-Cuban, at home in Matanzas, Cuba, home to a large community of descendants of early 20th-century Korean immigrants.” Photo by @michaelvincekim 2. “Better together.” Photo by @istanbul.fragments

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.

Portraits from Alana Holmberg’s documentary project, “Resist Laughter.”

“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.”

Photographs from Alana’s project, “And Holland has Tulips,” about her cousin who has Down Syndrome.

@EverydayEverywhere invites guest curators to select their favorite images on Instagram hashtagged #EverydayEverywhere. If you’re interested in curating, please get in touch: contact@everydayprojects.org.

Written by Danielle Villasana

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