Life in Iraq through its civilians’ eyes

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Alexandra Rose Howland’s photobook illuminates the everyday lives of Iraqi civilians, punctuated by fear, loss and violence

Photographer Alexandra Rose Howland moved to Iraq in 2017, over a decade since a United States-organised coalition invaded the country in 2003, ultimately destabilising Iraq. And the year the ISIS caliphate lost significant ground. Rose Howland wanted to understand a country she had come to know mostly through western media. Unsurprisingly, the reality was different. And this is what she endeavours to communicate through Leave and Let Us Go, which collates her photography with civilians’ images and written testimony. The testimony illuminates the fear, suffering, loss and violence endured by Iraq’s population — something also expressed by the photographs, which periodically frame suffering and destruction, along with more mundane scenes of everyday life. 

“I became acutely aware that what a foreigner can capture through an image does not always embody the lived reality of locals,” articulates Rose Howland. Indeed, the publication is not just Rose Howland’s photographic observation of the place. It is also a window into the lives of a small number of civilians. A means of attempting to bridge the gap between westerners’ skewed perception of Iraq through collating the real-life stories, experiences, memories and hopes of Iraqi people. Bold, black letters envelop the publication’s final page. “Don’t kill them. Don’t arrest them. Don’t send them back,” they read. An assertion, in an intensely anti-immigrant climate, that these are not threatening individuals, but people with real experiences, hopes and dreams.

Leave and Let Us Go is published by GOST Books.