International Women’s Day Update
From Alana Holmberg
Give us the latest on your project, Resist Laughter, where are you up to?
I got back from a seven-week trip to Turkey in mid-December. In 2015, I spent all of my time in Istanbul, so in 2016 I visited other parts of Turkey to understand the experiences of young feminists in more conservative areas. I traveled south to a coastal area nearby Fethiye, then to the capital city of Ankara, and finally across to a mountainous city called Dersim in Eastern Turkey, before returning to Istanbul again.
After a break over the Aussie summer to defrost and digest everything I’d learned in Turkey, I’m now deep in selecting and editing mode. I’ve got prints up on the wall in my studio here in Melbourne and constantly looking, rearranging, looking, rearranging. I’ve been reading through the 30+ interviews that have been translated and transcribed, and using them to pull out themes and quotes to complement and inform the image choices.

Next week I’ve got a day planned with Simon and Ingvar to lay it all out and start pulling the current very wide selection into something tighter and more coherent than my mad scribbles ahead of the exhibition in May.
Was it a difference experience going back to Turkey a second time?
Yeah it was totally different. Firstly landing somewhere that was familiar and continuing with a project rather than starting something completely from scratch was fantastic – I felt I could jump right back in with all the lessons from 2015 informing my thinking and process. I was also able to reconnect with women I’d worked with in 2015 and get a sense of how things have changed for them in a really turbulent time for the country and women’s rights there.
Today is International Women’s Day, what does it mean for you?
It’s an opportunity to reflect on the work that’s being done to address gender equality – there are some incredible projects, programs and people doing amazing work out there that deserve recognition. Given most of my client and personal work explores the experiences of women, I will spend the day reflecting on the people I’ve personally met the past year – clients, colleagues and those I’ve photographed – in terms of what they’ve taught me, how they’ve inspired me to challenge me to think differently, and how they’re contributing to a more inclusive, gender equal world.
Is there anything you learned from your trip to Turkey that applies to this year’s theme – ‘Be Bold For Change’?
It’s an interesting theme for me when I consider my trip to Turkey this year. In 2015 when I went there, defiance and boldness was a theme that came out through all the interviews I did. But in 2016, following a failed military coup, several terrorist attacks and increasing violence against women, some of the women I interviewed had actually stepped back from the feminist movement. They were more concerned about self-preservation in such turbulent times. So I’m asking myself, is it always possible to be bold for change? How can we support people in situations where being bold is difficult or even dangerous?
How has The Pool Grant  contributed to your project so far?
A chunk of the grant was used to pay translators and fixers while I was in Turkey. They were a huge, huge help, kept me sane and all continue to contribute to the project now I’m back home. Cash component aside, I was checking in with Simon and Ingvar via Skype while I was away pretty regularly. They were a very welcome support through the inevitable ups and down that come working on big projects when you can’t see the woods for the trees.
And the countdown is now on for the exhibition in May. How are you feeling about it?
A mixture of excitement and the nervous anticipation that comes with putting work out there that you’ve been squirreling away on for a long time. I saw the exhibition space about a month ago and it’s incredible! And bloody huge! I’ll be pinching myself when all the work is done, the images are up on the wall and we’re having a few drinks. A lot of work ahead of me but I can’t wait.