Artist profile: Photographer Christian Rølla – Documentary & Nature



Photographer Christian Rølla


When I met Christian in May 2016 he was documenting a fragment of the lives of a Kurdish family who had fled their home in 2014 and were seeking asylum and a safe place to live In Iceland. He was invited by the family Sabre to stay with them in their temporary government assigned home in Iceland and to disclose their solitude, desperation and dignity through imagery. The image below displays their rapport and intimate connection. Zhala the youngest daughter, who was 17 years old in the photo, is in her prayer gown while her mother is sitting on the bed, they both trust Christians encroachment in their lives.


Zhala and her mother in Iceland, photo by Christian Rølla

Solitude in Iceland, photo by Christian Rølla


Christians first hand experience gave us a better understanding of one familys’ inhumane struggle with bureaucracy. In 2017 his images were on display at the Hugheimar exhibition space in Borgarnes and during his second visit that same year he presented his work to the Lions Club in Borgarnes. In February of 2018 Christian lectured and presented his work about displaced people to the University in Copenhagen´s Symposium Representing Migration. As a photographer Christian Røllas main role is documenting the lives of people who are in war torn lands. His candid photos reveal ordinary people living out their lives in distressing and inhumane conditions. Christian has travelled to Kurdish Iraq twice in recent years photographing children in refugee camps, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.

From the camps in Kurdistan, photo by Christian Rølla


From the camps in Kurdistan, photo by Christian Rølla


“Both trips to Kurdistan were with the Norweigian NGO humanitarian organization Red Sun. During our initial trip our task was to map the situation of the various refugee camps, establish contacts to gain access to the camps and to document the situation with photos and film. And of course to help where we could. Because of corruption our second trip was focused on providing direct aid and handing out supplies. We also socialized and played with the kids. In Iraq and Kurdistan there is an estimate of 2.2 – 3 million IDP´s (Internally Displaced Persons).

Although I had 50 disposable cameras, I was able to give away 15 of the cameras to children in the camp. It was stressfuly and dangerous . My idea was to involve the kids. The thing is I felt kind of bad taking their photos and leaving them there. Like i was speculating on their misery, even though I was there to highlight their situation. So I got the idea to portrait as many families as I possibly could and give the older kids cameras. That way I involved them too. Photos are history and memorys. And most of these people have lost everything, Including their photos. So my idea was develop the cameras, print the portraits, and give them each a portait along with the set of the pics they took. But I never got to portrait more than two families due to stressfull work situations. And the photos the kids took I havent been able to give back because i havent been able to go back to Kurdish Iraq due to the situaiton. But I have given most of them the photos in digital form. I numbred all the cameras and wrote down their adresses (Tent number) on a noteblock. Like this: Camera 13: Tent 467.In total together the children had about 540 images.“


From the camps in Kurdistan photo by Christian Rølla


From the camps in Kurdistan, photo by Christian Rølla


Nature and Repose

In November of 2016 Christian returned to Borgarnes, this time investigating sollitude during one of the darkest times of the year. Borgarnes is a small town of less than 2000 residents and relatively remote. He plans to continue private workshops specializing in night time photography in Iceland again this winter.

Christian Rølla was born and raised in Oslo and he graduated from the Bilder Nordic School of Photography. He lives on the edge of the lake at Nesodden with his dog Maya both his best mate and true love. Currently he is constructing and installing a photography lab for a youth center in Groruddalen, Norway.


Interview by MIchelle / Kunstportal