Alexandra R Howland is both photojournalist and artist. These photographs were taken during her trips to document the refugee crisis --- from time spent in the now defunct camp in Idomeni and the camps on Lesvos Island in Greece in early 2016, to refugee sites in Belgrade, Serbia during freezing temperatures this January, 2017. The exhibition, Currents, is about movement, a word intentionally meant to remind us of the ocean and too, to point to the present moment and the realities that refugees face everyday.
In Howland's Aegea series we see macro and abstracted photos of the lifeboats that refugees took from Izmir, Turkey to their destination in Greece. In several of these images you will notice the place where they slashed the air from the boat once in Greece’s national guard waters --- a necessary and terrifying reality to get the attention of the coast guard in order to safely and legally go to shore. Near the shore where the refugees dock on Lesvos Island is 'The Graveyard.' It is a massive and ever-increasing pile of lifejackets. In Howland’s Landscape series we see the rocky terrain of Greece’s islands scattered with the life-jackets that have blown away from the mass, settling eerily into the landscape. In her -14 °C series, she zooms in on the grey fleece blankets handed out to people on-site in unofficial refugee camps in Belgrade, Serbia. Despite their abstraction the images retain a vivid sense of the shivering cold during the days she photographed there.
Together, these series act as a reminder of the ongoing plight of refugees, but also hints at the abstract and impersonal way in which they are viewed. There are no people in these images, only the idea of them. Instead the images are a reminder of them, and too, a reminder to ourselves about how little we actually know about them.