12th annual Head On Photo Festival launches in Sydney

The 12th annual Head On Photo Festival launched in Sydney and runs until Sunday, 28 November across a number of the city’s iconic venues and locations. It features more than 100 exhibitions with the work of over 750 artists.

Established back in 2008, the Head On festival and awards aim to promote and increase the accessibility of photography as well as help raise awareness about important current issues. Following on from last year’s successful online program, this year the Head On Festival will also feature a strong digital presence and include a series of artist talks and workshops.

© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Image featured in the collaborative '2019 - A year before lockdown' exhibition, captured by Lachlan Douglas
© Lachlan Douglas. Image featured in the collaborative exhibition, 2019 - A year before lockdown

Not hampered by COVID restrictions, Sydneysiders will have access to the dozens of exhibitions on display across galleries and public spaces, with the primary festival hubs centred around Bondi Beach and Paddington Reservoir Gardens. Bondi Beach will feature half a kilometre of exhibition space along the Promenade while the Paddington Reservoir Gardens will play host to a series of free talks, artist conversations, and workshops.

Featured international artists

The Festival will feature a number of works and exhibitions by prominent international artists, a few of which are listed below.

© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Swimmers by Nadide Goksun
© Nadide Goksun. From the series, Swimmers

Swimmers, a series by Turkish-American photographer Nadide Goksun, will be on show at Bondi Beach. It draws inspiration from Goksun’s childhood memories of summer holidays by the Aegean Sea and explores feelings of relaxation and pleasure brought on by the act of floating and moving through water.

Meanwhile, internationally acclaimed South Africa photographer Roger Ballen’s series, Roger the Rat, will be on display at Paddington Reservoir Gardens, explores the nature of the human psyche.

© Roger Ballen. From the series, Roger the Rat.
© Roger Ballen. From the series, Roger the Rat.

American photographer, writer, and filmmaker Neil Kramer’s series, Quarantine in Queens, reveals the unexpected living arrangement he found himself in during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020. Kramer was housed in a two-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York, with his 86-year-old mother and his ex-wife. He sought to capture images that served as a personal commentary on ideas of caregiving, love, and family responsibility.

© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Quarantine Queens by Neil Kramer
© Neil Kramer. Quarantine in Queens

Local talent

For the first time in the Festival's history, Head On will feature an exhibition that showcases images captured by emerging First Nations photographers who took part in the First Sight mentorship program. The exhibition, on show at the Paddington Reservoir Gardens, which shares its name with the mentorship program, is made up of images that explore themes of First Nations identity, culture, and artistic vision.

© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Image featured in the collaborative First Sight exhibition, captured by Emerging First Nations artist Lowell Hunter
© Lowell Hunter. Image featured in the collaborative exhibition, First Sight. 

Johannes Reinhart's series, Dreaming of Mermaids, was shot at the mermaid tank at the Perth Fringe World Festival, and explores the innocence and magic of childhood.

© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Dreaming of Mermaids by Johannes Reinhart
© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Dreaming of Mermaids by Johannes Reinhart

Tom Goldner’s series Do brumbies dream in red? explores changes in the Australian landscape, with a particular focus on the Snowy Mountain brumby and the impact of the 2019-2020 summer bushfires.

A collaborative exhibition featuring the work of more than 50 of Australia’s best live music photographers, 2019 - A Year Before Lockdown, celebrates the live music community, and will be on display at the Bondi Beach Promenade. The images were also featured in a photobook created to help raise funds for the charity SupportAct in the wake of the economic strain felt by the arts community due to COVID-19.

Photographer and former DJ, Bridgette Gower, will showcase the world premiere of her body of series, Disco Bugs. It depicts ‘dancing’ bugs, and was inspired by the lights and laser beams of the nightclubs that she visited around the globe as a DJ.

© Head On Photo Festival 2021 - Postcards from the Edge (of South Melbourne) by Kadri Elcoat
© Kadri Elcoat. Postcards from the Edge (of South Melbourne)

Kadri Elcoat’s series, Postcards from the Edge (of South Melbourne), sheds light on the impact of having life put on hold during the lockdown in Melbourne. To create the series, Elcoat recreated activities at home that were no longer possible in the real world, depicting humorous scenes such as going on holiday in her kitchen, abseiling from the stairs, and camping in the living room.

Visit the Head On website full the full rundown of all the exhibitions, workshops, and events.

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