Celebrating a bar mitzvah
Head On Photo Festival

Celebrating a bar mitzvah

A highlight of Australia’s arts calendar, Head On Photo Festival is celebrating its 13 year with an electric range of photography from around the world in unique outdoor exhibitions. The AJN spoke to founder and creative director Moshe Rosenzveig OAM about what visitors can expect for 2022.

An image from Ha Haretz: The Promised Land. Photo: Roger Grasas
An image from Ha Haretz: The Promised Land. Photo: Roger Grasas

Photos capture an exact moment in time. They can speak volumes, even if it’s a simple picture of a family around a dinner table.

The Head On Photo Festival, now in its 13th year, has always resonated with many people.

“We’re having our bar mitzvah this year,” founder and creative director Moshe Rosenzveig laughed while chatting to The AJN.

Head On started as a portrait competition, which Rosenzveig described as “the photographic Archibald”, before saying that the festival was difficult to get into galleries, which at that time, meant “you didn’t really exist”.

So, the festival board changed the narrative, aiming to fill five small exhibitions. Rosenzveig wanted to go bigger, attempting at least 15-20, but the team far surpassed this, creating more than 65 exhibitions around the city.

In Head On, entrants are anonymous, so every photographer is viewed on an even playing field.

Judges change every year and come from different backgrounds, whether that’s commercial photography, curators, portrait photography or photo editing.

An image from Superheroes in Lockdown. Photo: Jake Nowakowski

“It’s different people, different backgrounds, different styles and different tastes,” Rosenzveig explained.

“We want to be as diverse as possible.”

And in its bar mitzvah year, Head On 2022 is no exception.

As with all other years, there is no set theme. Photographers are invited to submit their works and those the judges like are exhibited.

“There’s always a spread between all sorts of subjects, and people and backgrounds and countries,” Rosenzveig confirmed. “[This year] they’re really strong images, kind of challenging us.”

Themes naturally do emerge simply because of what is on everyone’s minds right now.

There are exhibitions depicting the journey of being a woman, like Through My Child’s Eyes by Lisa Murray who details how it felt to be diagnosed with breast cancer mere weeks before her surrogate child was due to be born, and Good Lord, Leave Your Mother Alone by Mikaela Martin which as Rosenzveig says shows “the difficulties of being pulled in all directions by the kids”.

There are also a number of Israeli photographers or photographers with exhibitions about Israel.

Image from Sign of the Times, Pandemic Perspective. Photo: Dina Alfasi

Sign of the Times, Pandemic Perspective by Dina Alfasi shows the impact of COVID-19 through passengers on a train in Israel, Sea Days Project by Orna Naor depicts the Machsom Watch organisation who help bring Palestinian children and their mothers to the sea, and Ha Aretz: The Promised Land by Roger Grasas, documents different places around Israel.

There are exhibitions about conflict and war, and many cover COVID-19; contrasted against some more light-hearted topics like Dogs in the City and Superheroes in Lockdown.

In a big coup, Head On will this year be showcasing Paper Tigers, a celebration of the best photojournalists around the country from the last 50 years, many of whom Rosenzveig describes as “legends”.

For Rosenzveig, the images are critical parts of the story of life. “Photography gives us a mirror to the world and an opportunity to extend things beyond words,” he said.

“If it’s not modified, it’s a true picture of reality from that specific perspective … it reminds us of things we want to remember.”

Head On is showing throughout Sydney from November 4-20 November. For more, visit headon.org.au


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