….well not really, otherwise my pancreas would surely have packed it in by now, but if you ask anyone that knows me they would definitely agree its a big part of my diet. One of the best presents any one has ever given me was a cheese plate and knife and a selection from Simon Johnsons Fromagerie. That came from an assistant who I trained and was leaving to travel, camera in hand.
Now what this has to do with photojournalism and the Head On Photo Festival whose logo I am running for the header for this post today is actually quite fundamental. It is a true statement that I eat a lot of cheese. Eating cheese is as important to me as making photographs…they are both occupations I believe truly define my character…
Which brings me to the Head On Photo Festival which is running in Sydney at the moment. It is a festival of gigantic proportions for a town like Sydney, where the new ‘hipsters’ and old ‘litterati’ have taken to photography like ducks to water, finally recognising its artistic breadth and vision as an artform.
I have to give it to Moshe Rosenzveig the Director of Head On Photo Festival, he is somewhat of an organisational and marketing genius to have created this type of event with its plethora of galleries and styles of photography. And its headlining Photographic Portrait Prize competition. Lots of people have tried to do this kind of thing in Sydney before but Moshe has succeeded quite beyond anyone else’s attempts. He has made this fly as a viable annual event. I haven’t seen a whole lot of it yet but what I have seen has been interesting.
Seeing this amount of photography around the shores of one of the most beautiful harbours in the world leads me to remember a comment made on an internet photojournalism forum by an American photojournalist about the state of photography and indeed photographers in Australia. The commentator mentioned how competitive and ambitious Australian photographers are and that the level of investment in photography seems to be restricted to photographic competitions rather than art buyers. Of course Australia is home to the DIY mentality so just about everyone who totes a camera here thinks they are the next Nachtwey or Capa, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are or that they will be in the future.
Which brings me back to cheese and lots of it…While all festivals of this nature tend to inconsistency in the single exhibitions there are some excellent things to be seen… Nadia Janis’s show at Global Gallery is just one of them. Nadia did a Masterclass in Photojournalism I taught at ACP and the took herself off to Chernobyl to mark the 25th Anniversary of the nuclear accident, she buddied up with Antonin Kratochvil to produce a body of work that is as haunting as it is lyrical.
So back to cheese… speaking with Nadia the other night was an inspiration. She remembered something that I said in class about photography needed to be an essential part of your nature for it to succeed. She has demonstrated this perfectly as she has reached back to her Ukranian roots and shows a real connection with the subject matter. The work then speaks to me as authentically linked and an honest interpretation of the voices of the people who suffered the consequences of the accident.
So while Nadia has come from a legal background I believe her work succeeds unequivocally in telling the story because it is also a fundamental part of her being to be telling this as she has. I believe she is one of the ones that could take this career a long way.
Unfortunately there is work that I feel less empathetic toward in the Head On Festival and while it has some merit from a documentary viewpoint it seems that some photographers are struggling with an expectation of themselves to perform. I guess jumping on the band wagon of what is a burgeoning major photographic festival is one way of getting known as a photographic entity but I just don’t think that work that is not an honest exploration of the form and the photographers place within it is particularly edifying.
So while I applaud and cheer for the continuing development of Head On I would just like to say that I think the very best photographs are produced when the photographer is true to themselves first and foremost…
And I will have a little Stilton with that cracker thanks…