Jam-packed exhibitions

Head On Photo Festival descends on Sydney

The Head On Photo Festival will feature more than 700 photographers from around the world and will be exhibited at Bondi Beach, Paddington Reservoir Gardens and The Muse at TAFE, Ultimo.

American Bedroom. Photo: Barbara Peacock
American Bedroom. Photo: Barbara Peacock

What photographers love most about the annual Head On Photo Festival is that submissions are judged anonymously. As festival creative director and founder Moshe Rosenzveig explained to The AJN, “We don’t know who the photographer is when we’re judging the works. We aren’t selecting the artists, but the artwork.”

Rosenzveig went on to say that many photographers around the world – both up and coming and established – appreciate that the works are being judged on their own merit rather than on who the photographer is, what and where they have exhibited and whether they’ve been published in a prestigious magazine.

“Some of the more established photographers tell us specifically that they submit to us because they like the way we exhibit the work, which is very accessible to the public, and the way we choose the work which is based on how good it is, not because the person is well known,” he said.

This year, the festival will feature more than 700 photographers from around the world and will be exhibited at Bondi Beach, Paddington Reservoir Gardens and The Muse at TAFE, Ultimo.

The latter two exhibitions feature photography that is a bit more confronting, for example, covering the war in Ukraine. Also available to view at The Muse is Paper Tigers 23, which is a celebration of 60 images from 60 of the best Australian photojournalists, looking back at the most critical moments through recent Australian history, and the images by which we remember them.

Rosenzveig took The AJN through the program, highlighting some interesting exhibitions, including Stealing Beauty, which documents two indigenous tribes living in India’s Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar’s Chin States that share a unique tradition of female facial tattooing and modification. Rosenzveig also mentioned Of Steel and Dust, which documents Iraq’s biker clubs, in which Shias, Sunnis and Christians come together.

Of Steel and Dust. Photo: Chloe Sharrock

And while Rosenzveig spoke about several others, he specifically mentioned The Lonka Project, by Rina Castelnuovo and Jim Hollander, which documents Holocaust survivors’ stories and is an ongoing exhibit consisting of more than 450 portraits including those of Eddie Jaku and Frank Lowy.

The Head On Photo Festival also features a number of awards including the Portrait Awards, Landscape Awards, Student Awards and more. Rosenzveig is especially excited for the Environmental Awards.

“We have fantastic images all about their environment, but with a bit of a twist. So, it’s not negative; it’s not the world is going to end. It has some positive imagery of regrowth. So, a bit better than the bleak view of ‘we’re all doomed’,” he said.

Finally, Rosenzveig discussed the conversations that are taking place throughout the festival, including “Vishniac”, in partnership with JIFF. The special event will have live music, refreshments and then screen the documentary about Roman Vishniac, a pioneer of microscopic photography and one of the first to use photography as an instrument of documentation – when Vishniac began to photograph Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, he did not know he was documenting their final moments, never putting down his camera as he fled Russia, then Berlin and finally arrived in New York just as the Nazis came to power.

“He was probably the first and the last to do that,” Rosenzveig said about Vishniac documenting the Jewish experience in prewar Europe. “It’s a collection of amazing work of what Jewish life used to be before the war. We are hosting a screening of this film, and a panel discussion will follow about how you present history to the next generation which is very relevant, not just obviously for the Jewish community.”

Head On Photo Festival runs from November 10 to December 3. For more, visit headon.org.au

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