Alexandra Rose Howland: Leave and Let Us Go

Alexandra Rose Howland (1990, US/UK) has spent the last decade living in the Middle East and creating work that challenges traditional coverage of the region and its geopolitics. Her background as an abstract painter continues to impact her work, leading to a multidimensional practice using imagery, found objects, collage, sound, and video. At Copenhagen Photo Festival Howland presents an exhibition at the Festival Center and an open air exhibition in the square by Biblioteket på Rentemestervej.

In 2017, Howland moved to Iraq to continue her long-term work of trying to understand and translate a nation fractured by decades of instability and war. She first created an 88km panoramic image of Mosul Road, the main thoroughfare connecting Erbil and Mosul. At the height of the Mosul offensive, Howland sat on a truck creeping along the road and took one image every three seconds. She manually stitched each image together to create a visual of the people, landscape, and daily life along a road that connected the heart of the proclaimed ISIS Caliphate to a city they could not capture. The viewers see everything from the extremes of a conflict zone to the regularity of the everyday, challenging their understanding of this overly documented country.  

Throughout this time, Howland became acutely aware that what a foreigner views and photographs does not always embody the lived reality of locals. On her first day on the frontline, a soldier sat next to her and flipped through his phone, sharing pictures: His kills. His wife. His girlfriend. His children. His university graduation day. His wedding night. This interaction repeated with myriad of Iraqis who wanted their lives witnessed, not just represented. 

Howland began asking to download these first-person accounts; over the next three years, she built an archive of roughly 350,000 images and videos from over 50 individuals, from selfies to family photos, to Snapchats. The resulting Leave and Let Us Go is an intimate and multi-dimensional portrait that returns the narrative power of an often-misunderstood country to its own citizens. Leave and Let Us Go is comprised of sections from the panoramic image of Mosul Road, phone images, scanned family photo albums, and Howland’s own documentation throughout her time living and working in Iraq. Leave and Let Us Go is published with GOST Books and is currently a central part of Copenhagen Photo Festival with the outdoor exhibition here in front of BIBLIOTEKET and at the festival center on Refshaleøen on display June 2nd-12th.

About the artist

Alexandra Rose Howland (1990, US/UK) has lived in the Middle East over the last decade, creating work that aims to challenge and expand the ways that geopolitical events are communicated. Her background as an abstract painter informs her practice, resulting in multidimensional projects that use images, found objects, interviews and video. Through her work, she seeks to generate a more expansive understating of how conflict is portrayed. She has shown internationally with both solo and group exhibitions including Leave and Let Us Go (solo), FOAM Museum Amsterdam, Road to Mosul (solo), London, Textured to Only Us (solo), Los Angeles. Leave and Let Us Go was published by GOST Books in 2021.

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Alexandra Rose Howland (1990 US/UK) har boet i Mellemøsten de seneste 10 år og skab værker, der udfordrer den traditionelle dækning af regionen. Hendes baggrund som abstrakt kunstner har stor indflydelse på måde at arbejde tværdimensionelt og visuelt. I sin praksis benytter hun billeder, fundne objekter, collage, lyd og video. Under Copenhagen Photo Festival kan man opleve Alexandra Rose Howland i FRAME på Festival Centrum samt i en open-air udstilling på torvet ved siden af Biblioteket på Rentemestervej!

I 2017 flyttede Howland til Irak for at fortsætte sit langsigtede arbejde med at forsøge at forstå og oversætte en nation, der var knust af årtiers ustabilitet og krig. Hun skabte først et 88 km langt panoramabillede af Mosul Road, hovedfærdselsåren, der forbinder Erbil og Mosul. På højden af ​​Mosul-offensiven sad Howland på en lastbil, der sneglede sig langs vejen, og tog et foto hvert tredje sekund. Hun syede alle fotografierne sammen i hånden for at skabe et portræt af mennesker, landskab og dagligdag langs en vej, der forbandt hjertet af det udråbte ISIS-kalifat til en by, billederne ikke kunne indfange. 

Beskueren ser alt – fra en konfliktzones ekstremer til hverdagens regelmæssighed – hvilket udfordrer forståelsen af dette overdokumenterede land. I løbet af denne tid blev Howland meget opmærksom på, at det en udlænding ser og fotograferer, ikke altid afspejler lokalbefolkningens levede virkelighed. På hendes første dag i frontlinjen sad en soldat ved siden af ​​hende og bladrede gennem sin telefon og delte billeder: Hans drab. Hans kone. Hans kæreste. Hans børn. Hans dimission fra universitetet. Hans bryllupsnat. Dette gentog sig med utallige irakere, som ønskede, at deres liv skulle være bevidnet, ikke blot repræsenteret.

Howland begyndte at bede om lov til at downloade disse førstepersonskonti, og i løbet af de næste tre år skabte hun et arkiv med omkring 350.000 billeder og videoer fra flere end 50 personer, fra selfies til familiebilleder til Snapchats. Resultatet Leave and Let Us Go er et intimt og flerdimensionelt portræt, der giver fortællerstemmen tilbage til Iraks egne borgere – et ofte misforstået land. Leave and Let Us Go består af sektioner fra panoramabilledet af Mosul Road, telefonbilleder, scannede familiefotoalbum og Howlands egen dokumentation gennem hele hendes tid med at bo og arbejde i Irak. Leave and Let Us Go er udkommet som bog hos GOST Books og er lige nu en central del af Copenhagen Photo Festival med denne udendørsudstilling i samarbejde med BIBLIOTEKET og i festivalcentrummet på Refshaleøen, hvor den fulde udstilling kan opleves i perioden 2.-12. juni.

Om kunstneren

Den engelsk-amerikanske kunstner Alexandra Rose Howland (1990) har løbende boet i Mellemøsten gennem de sidste ti år, hvor hendes kunstneriske fokus har været at udfordre og udvide måden vi kommunikerer om geopolitiske begivenheder. Hendes baggrund som abstrakt kunstmaler afspejler sig i hendes praksis i form af flerdimensionelle projekter, der bruger billeder, fundne objekter, interviews og video. Gennem sit arbejde søger hun at skabe en mere ekspansiv forståelse af, hvordan konflikt skildres. Hun har udstillet internationalt med både solo- og gruppeudstillinger, herunder Leave and Let Us Go (solo), FOAM Museum Amsterdam, Road to Mosul (solo), London, Textured to Only Us (solo), Los Angeles. Leave and Let Us Go blev udgivet af GOST Books i 2021.


Female art photographers take center stage

On June 2.-12. 2022, Copenhagen Photo Festival, which is the largest photo festival in the Nordic region,
opens up for reflection and play with the boundaries of photography in collaboration with galleries,
museums and cultural actors in Copenhagen and Scania. The festival center is located at the artificial island
Refshaleøen in Copenhagen, where three international female art photographers are among the highlights.
With humor, diversity, and artistic finesse, they portray new aspects of common narratives of the media,
society and history through the art of photography.

On 2-12 June Copenhagen Photo Festival will for the 12th time open all over Copenhagen with three
international women's lens-based art in focus. Hien Hoang, Alexandra Rose Howland and Krista Svalbonas
won the Copenhagen Photo Festival's open call, and will exhibit at the festival center on Refshaleøen. Each
of the artists blurs the boundaries between documentation and art, leaving a personal and highly topical
impression.

Stereotypes, conflict zones and a highly topical depiction of escape

Vietnamese Hien Hoang won in the category Framing Identity with the project ‘Asia Bistro - Made in Rice’. In
her works, she confronts us with classic notions of Asian culture. In the Framing Society category, the
Anglo-American artist Alexandra Rose Howland won for the project ‘Leave and Let Us Go’. Through collages
of everyday images collected from the inhabitants of Mosul, she strives to unfold a more nuanced and
diverse image of the war-torn region, which is often only known through the media coverage.
American-Latvian-Lithuanian Krista Svalbonas won in the category Framing Vision, which honors an
aesthetic visionary project. With ‘Displacement’, she explores the history of her parents and grandparents.
After Russia's invasion of the Baltic countries in the 1940s, they were driven into exile and housed in camps
for displaced people in Germany. The project illustrates the unfortunate story of displaced people for whom the idea of "home" is undermined by political agendas beyond their control. The war in Ukraine puts her
historically investigative works in a frighteningly contemporary perspective.

The festival gathers Danish photography and puts a long-term focus on talents

In addition to the three solo exhibitions, this year’s festival highlights emerging talents and leading Danish
photographers. According to Managing director Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen, it is important that the festival
shows the audience the quality and diversity that the Danish photo scene has to offer.

“Copenhagen Photo Festival is the natural gathering place for leading actors within Danish photography. I
am particularly proud that this year’s festival presents many internationally oriented and entrepreneurial
actors from the Danish photo and art scene. Amongst other, there will be exhibitions, a market for photo
books, and activities from the Photojournalist education at DMJX, TOFU Collective, Fotogodsbanen from
Århus, PhotoScope from Hillerød, Blankt Papir Press and many more”, says Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen.

Another central part of the festival's work is to lift the Danish talent pool. At the festival, you can therefore
once again experience Futures Nordic Talents, which presents the five photographers Iben Gad, Inuuteq
Storch, Luna Scales, Oscar Scott Carl and Tine Bek. The Futures Nordic Talents initiative is a talent program
that helps accentuate emerging Danish photographers. It is supported by the EU's cultural support program
Creative Europe and runs until 2024.

Activities for photo enthusiasts throughout Copenhagen

At the festival site at Refshaleøen, you can look forward to a sharp program of workshops, talks, music and
guided tours, which will be held throughout the festival period. Here you can learn more about
photography, play with the media's tools or just enjoy the festival atmosphere. There is also ample
opportunity to experience the photographic media unfold throughout many of the art galleries, museums,
and cultural institutions across Greater Copenhagen, for example at Fotografisk Center, Martin Asbæk
Gallery, Alice Folker Gallery, NW Gallery, Banja Rathnov Gallery and Clausens Kunsthandel, together with
Det Grønlandske Hus, Landskrona Foto og Galleri Format in Malmö amongst others. Copenhagen Photo
Festival 2022 is currently supported by the City of Copenhagen, Det Obelske Familiefond and Creative
Europe – the EU's cultural support program.

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About Copenhagen Photo Festival

On 2-12 June 2022, the Nordic region's largest photo festival kicks off for the 12th time. The festival is held
in close collaboration with galleries, museums and cultural institutions in Copenhagen and southern
Sweden. Every year established and budding Danish and foreign photographers contribute, and the festival
is visited by approximately 55.000 people. The festival puts photography on the agenda under the three
main pillars Framing Identity, Framing Society and Framing Vision through exhibitions, workshops, talks,
portfolio reviews and social events.