Head On Festival Highlights
Sydney, Australia, May 2012
“I arrived in Sydney with expectations and natural enthusiasm. I came back full of notes, names and supra satisfaction”
Now in its third year, the Head On Photo Festival is Australia’s biggest photo festival and the second largest in the world. Activating over 114 venues in Sydney, through more than 230 exhibitions and events the 2012 festival showcased the work of over 1190 photographers. More impressively the festival propelled over 600,000 visits to these exhibitions and events across the month of May 2012. The festival featured David Alan Harvey, Burn; Head On, Stephen Dupont, Pablo Bartholomew, Jon Lewis, David Maurice Smith, Kerry Payne, Andrew Quilty, Megan Lewis, See Jane Run, Ella Pellegrini, Creative Exchange and Jagath Dheerasekara.
David Alan Harvey “(based on a true story)”
A photo novella where fiction and reality collide, choosing Rio as its setting to host a biographical (as personal it gets) chapter capturing the sexuality, the mood, the temptations, the danger and the mysteries the photographer was surrounded by. It isn’t Sally Mann, Nan Goldin, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Duane Michaels, Jock Sturges, Nicholas Nixon, Imogene Cunningham, Edward Steichen or Robert Frank but he was inspired by them. It all comes across as an intimate diary with real characters, events and surroundings. Nothing was made up. David walked around the Australian Centre of Photography with the characteristic style that defined him, not as a legendary Magnum photographer, but of a man leading a lifestyle that everyone wished for (and should long for) …warmth, gratitude and smiles flowed in appreciation of the good memories represented by those giant prints hanging there and so did fun, because the philosophy prevails ‘work hard and party hard’, ‘we did something special here’. ‘I turned left when I should have turned right’. And it worked again…another step towards his innovative legacy.
BURN “Burn 02”
‘It was created as a magazine’ but it deviated from the original plan and has now become a family, a community with the aim of and celebration of good photography. Even though Burn Magazine is part of my routine it overcame my high expectations. It succeeded again, opening space, giving credit to talented emerging photographers and celebrating in the same room, sharing the same display space with legend masters with the calibre of Natchwey.
The mixture of subjects from social issues to advertisement plus the quality of the prints, aroused the curiosity of those who made it to the gallery at Pavillion, making it a crowd favourite and one of the most visited exhibitions. Verdict: Burn Magazine is the place to be. (DAH)
One final word: – Long Live Burn!
Head On – “Head On Portraits 2012”
Firstly, it commanded everyone’s attention as the biggest and most anticipated photo contest in the category. Moshe, Olympus and the juror committee pushing themselves out there into a spectacularly daunting task. The selected portraits I assure you brought surprises and for the right reasons: for the high level of either technical skills or for the sense of authorship of this competition. I sincerely wouldn’t like to be part of this committee… what a tough job this year. ‘Choose wisely!’ In this case, totally appropriate and truly applied.
Stephen DuPont – “Rituals of Death”
It’s easy to track him in the middle of the crowd ..so accessible, humble and generously attentive. It’s hard to describe his exhibition because there will be always be room for hidden meanings to be uncovered, for rational and emotional relation, and the lack of an appropriate straightforward definition. But that’s him…few can do it. He can. I surrender. He brought to the walls ‘Rituals of Death’ with all the anticipation of those who know his work, but also this immediate feeling of identification, with the black and white report, the simple awareness of the loss, the grief, religious and cultural interception, the need and the natural process of being a protagonist in belief practices. ‘Ritual of Death’ isn’t claiming judgement, controversy, altercation. It’s all about respect.
Pablo Bartholomew- “Outside in”
For me, he’s definitely one of the Gods of photography. He’s treated as a God in India and everywhere for those who’ve done their homework on the masters and award winners. This name has to ring a bell for you and please, do the research on his dad Richard Bartholomew. back to the master…’Outside in’ was appealing. It works as a mirror to Pablo’s personality: subtle, a tool, the most powerful elegant gun: simplicity. The same simplicity that he created his mark with, the intimacy, daily games and virility …and then comes the fun, the sarcasm, the lyricism, the sensitiveness for those eyes who can recognise beyond the ‘this is it’.
Jon Lewis- “Portraits from the Edge”
I’ve finally got to know the man and his baby…his book. He’s pure heart and everyone surrenders to his charm. He leaves behind a trail of smiles, jokes, softness and a feeling of ‘wish I can meet this guy again soon’. Photography he takes seriously. He made yelling protests as public awards, denouncing what eyes can’t reach and what inspires his multiples roles; activism, photography, writing, compassion for fellow human beings. Jon is “the one” who can convey frames in alarms or the other way back. Trust me.
David Maurice Smith- “Origins”
What a gem… A gentleman who everyone feels the need to talk with and especially to listen his expertise advice. Keep your eyes on him because he has this sharp, accurate understanding of the craft, that everyone feels familiar with. He’s achieving a lot of recognition with prizes, exhibitions and mentions for his acclaimed essay ‘Origins’. A mature understanding of the hip hop culture in New York, bringing a purpose to it beyond the original Afro American role set into a description of the prestigious, glamorous modern day version, but against some real and chaotic backdrop of New York City. He chased it for real and keep respecting the track. He does this brilliantly by evoking elements such as violence, sexuality, edginess, expression and the common ground for identification: family, routine and the beauty of battling everyday obstacles. The colours, the composition, the access evinced there, this combination validates the echo this project generated on Head On feedbacks. “Origins” is a project in progress. So, be smart, follow my advice, and keep your eyes on David Smith.
Kerry Payne – “Left behind – the suicide survivors”
‘I want to be Kerry Payne’. That can be justified by her beauty, smartness and kindness. But still, there’s more filling up the package: she’s one of the bravest souls I could meet at this festival and she uses her camera in the same way, defying the subject whilst trying to understand it and at the same time, defying herself as the cure, the healing process, the steps she has chosen to take which are ‘move on’ and ‘get over’ after her own father committed suicide. She’s now elevated her own experience to effect other silent spirits. All the doubts, anguish and effects on those left behind are also part of her story and you couldn’t have it more personal. It’s hard to control tears and its easy to feel inspired by the challenge that life represents.
Andrew Quilty: “Blue Highways”
‘I didn’t expect you to be so young and so handsome’. That isn’t the most astute thing to say or certainly not a statement to impress once it fades into shallowness. But that was my first line to him. You can’t avoid it, it’s dumb but naturally the first thing to cross your mind. You don’t expect all this to come together: natural talent, Oculi member, ability to harness his skills, the opportunism and reins of ‘timing’, the understanding and application of the best in composition, the brilliant use of and manipulation of lighting and shadows, AND…yes, young and good looking. It just seemed too much. But those last two adjectives lose significance, and become distractions as you concentrate just on those talented eyes and hands behind Blue Highways – a compelling road trip across the USA. An amazing exhibition, the literacy, romantic solicitud, the implied messages driven by it. And for the record: surprising also for the versatility of his black and white shots, diverting away from the colourful The Mexicans ‘a la Quilty‘ which originally brought recognition to his pallets. Fans of documentary street photography: Robert Frank, David Harvey, Pellegrini and Alex Webb? Don’t miss this name..Andrew Quilty for the list.
Megan Lewis – “Conversations with the Mob”
Beautiful Megan. You can sit down and listen to her all day long. Overwhelming experience and compassionate guidance. She could be named one of my heroines from now on. Super power? – photography. Tool? – heart. She spent two years living with an aboriginal community being treated as part of the family despite how blonde, tall and culturally different she was against them. She mixed and created common ground. The only photographer who was ever allowed to go beyond the threshold, to photograph and create a bond. So much respect, honesty, love and a diary about the journey of leaving your comfort zone to understand who you are and the lives around you, that you unexpectedly fall in love.
See Jane Run
Inspirational. Strong. Those women and photographers: Fiona Wolf, Anna Warr, Julie Sundberg and Emma Phillips accomplished their purpose: to create a collective that could speak to an audience on behalf of their gender’s role, the power of traditional and contemporary lines, playing with them and redefining them aesthetically, poetically, and impacting by visual bridges for commotion. They created the buzz…the exhibition opening was such a success that it inspired us to come back and have better access to the images over the following days. I’ll make easier for you, just jump in the link bellow. You won’t regret.
Ella Pellegrini – The Unforgotten Song
You’ve got to check out and take a note of this name. This woman is climbing fast and climbing on her own merit. She’s determined at every step of the journey and you can feel it in her work and words: access, building relationships, a flow as intimate and personal it can get, manipulation in her favour of every technical detail . She’s pure determination and passion, pushing herself to the limit, self-critical with her skills until she reaches the outcome she envisions in each particular essay. This formula was there for all to see, hung on the Global Gallery’s walls, the reason The Unforgettable Song got such rave reviews and was surrounded by attentive impressive eyes in that room.
The exciting photographer and curator Pete Longworth came up with the brilliant idea. And Michael Chin, brilliant musical director, media arts producer and creative collaborator came in as essential support. From then on… Creative Exchange had a stellar composition and made a story: How to lose this game?
No one was really expecting that. Not at the very finale of the range of events supported by Head On. It seemed a simple safe idea, a projection of slideshows by emerging and notable names from the Australian photography scene and many of the contributors already composing the main features of the festival. But what everyone witnessed was a perfect synch of visuals, music and atmosphere…creative minds thinking alike, appreciating quality, exchanging meaningfulness. What they could have called an art installation became an unpretentious room flowing with significant essays and showcasing talent. And how receptive and upstanding the audience becomes when their sense of judgment isn’t underestimated. The drinks and good music during presentation and on the stage came as added bonuses. A show honouring photography and how creative it can become orientated. No one was expecting that. That’s the beauty of surprise – amazed eyes and impact. That’s the reason they’ll be back and the room will be full again. Amen.
Jagath Dheerasekara – Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud
You meet Jagath and after one minute talking to him, you face the supreme realisation that ‘here’s a good man with a big purpose’. He’s socially engaged, with the message filtered for a broad audience. He could fit the philanthropic model, but for me ‘humanistic’ is enough. He is driven by protest and in such a visual romantic ideology that he straight awaygets you thinking about and measuring the outside world. The next thing you know, you’re bearing the same flag. Manuwangky..it isn’t about the expropriation of native land (in this specific case, with the purpose of building a nuclear waste facility) and it’s conflicts and effects on the community associated with the environment. When I was standing in front of the prints at Custom’s House, I could see it was about home, love for where, what and who you belong to, to be found in this idea and lost when it isn’t there anymore.