Photo Festivals of Australia and New Zealand


It is photo-festival time in Australia (and soon in NZ)!

FotoFreo is already well underway in Western Australia and Queensland Festival of Photography opens this month. Meanwhile, in Sydney we are gearing up for Head On Festival in May.

So, taking all this photo-festivity as a cue, here’s a quick rundown on the principal photography festivals in Australia and New Zealand.

(Click on each thumbnail below to view full image. Captions and copyright information are at the foot of the page.)



Now in its sixth edition, FotoFreo (officially: FotoFreo, the City of Fremantle Festival of Photography) is the longest running of the photography festivals in Australia and New Zealand. While the heart of the festival resides in the historic port city of Fremantle, recent years have seen exhibitions spread out to include the city of Perth and other centres in the larger conurbation.

This year’s highlights include a focus on photography from India with a wonderful solo exhibition by the celebrated photo artist Raghu Rai and a group presentation by curator Devika Daulet-Singh of work by six Indian practitioners (Bharat Sikka, Dileep Prakash, Ketaki Sheth, Gauri Gill, Vidura Jang Bahadur and N Pushpamala). Sohrab Hura created a projection showcasing 20 emerging and mid-career Indian photographers.  Described variously as a “Young Turk” and “one of the most exciting of the new generation of  photographers”, Sohrab Hura is a fresh, thoughtful and uncompromising voice in Indian photography. Definitely one to watch.

For the past three years FotoFreo has commissioned an artist to make a new body of work in Western Australia to be premiered at the festival as both an exhibition and a book. This year the renowned English photographer Martin Parr created an affectionately ironic visual survey of suburban life in Broome, Port Hedland and Fremantle entitled ‘No Worries’.

Important Australian artists showing at the festival include Eric Bridgeman, Rebecca Dagnall, Murray Fredericks, Petrina Hicks, Bronek Kozka and Richard Simpkins. Meanwhile, ‘Hijacked III – Australia and the United Kingdom’ was launched at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts by the entrepreneurial Mark McPherson and his co-curator for this third project, Louise Clements (Director of Quad gallery and Format festival in Derby, England).

FotoFreo runs to 15 April


Queensland Festival of Photography

Queensland Festival of Photography (QFP) is Australia’s only state-wide photo festival, stretching 1,500 kilometres from the Gold Coast to Cairns, and inland to Cunnamulla. Initiated by the Queensland Centre for Photography (QCP) in Brisbane, the biennial event takes in around 50 venues presenting the work of artists from within the state and beyond.

A highlight of this year’s festival is the exhibition ‘South of the Border’ at QCP, which features the work of Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Petrina Hicks, Murray McKeich, Catherine Nelson and Polixeni Papapetrou. Curated by the dynamic director of both QCP and QFP, Maurice Ortega, it explores a revival of a Baroque tendency in our visual lexicon that offers an escape from the constraints of the ‘straight photography’ advocated in the early and mid-20th Century.

The evolving festival program is available online from the Queensland Festival of Photography website.

Queensland Festival of Photography runs throughout April.


Head On Photo Festival

Head On Photo Festival, now in its third year, is an annual event that grew out of, and now includes, the Head On Portrait Prize. The prize was established as a reaction against the celebrity focus of a photographic portrait award initiated by the Art Gallery of NSW in 2002. The Art Gallery project only lasted a few years, but Head On has gone from strength to strength.

Head On has always had a firmly democratic philosophy, preferring to focus on pictures rather than whether or not the creator or subject is famous in their own right. Welcoming all those who wish to participate to submit their work, the festival program encompasses over 100 venues and 200 events across the city. The opening weekend will include a two-day seminar staged at the famous Bondi Pavilion followed by portfolio reviewing sessions on Monday 7 May.

When it is announced, the full program of exhibitions and events will be available at the Head On website.

Head On Festival opens 4 May and runs through to 3 June.


Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Australia’s other main photo festival, The Ballarat International Foto Biennale, is staged in August–September of odd-numbered years.

This Victorian festival began not in Ballarat but in the nearby area around the town of Daylesford where, in 2005 and again 2007 the exhibits were distributed among a number of picturesque towns and villages. In 2009 the festival moved to the city of Ballarat (the largest inland urban centre in the state of Victoria), where it was renamed as the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

In 2011 the festival presented more than 70 exhibitions including solo shows by the British pop–fashion photographer of the sixties and seventies, Brian Duffy; the Australian doyen of architectural photography, John Gollings; Chinese surrealist Maleonn; and a two-handed show of the earthy psychodramas of the Czech artists Jan and Sarah Saudek. (Alasdair Foster’s catalogue essay on the work of Jan and Sarah Saudek can be read here.)

BIFB13 opens on 17 August 2013 and run to 22 September.


Auckland Festival of Photography

Meanwhile, across the Tasman, Auckland Festival of Photography runs annually in June. With an egalitarian philosophy based on the four pillars of culture, identity, participation and art, the festival harnesses the visual story-telling facility of photography to explore and celebrate the country’s multicultural life and heritage. The festival is based in the nation’s largest city and draws its program from across the country.  Balancing excellence and active participation, exhibitions feature imagery by some of New Zealand’s most celebrated photographic artists while embracing the creativity of emerging and community practitioners.

The program for the Auckland Festival of Photography will be launched later in April.

Auckland Festival of Photography runs 1–24 June 2012


Stop Press: Independent Photography Festival

Well, no sooner do I upload the article on Australian and NZ photo festivals, but I find another has just been born.

The inaugural Independent Photography Festival (IPF) is on this week (2–8 April) in Melbourne.

An initiative of a group running a web platform “for hard working photographers everywhere” – called, appropriately enough, the Hard Workers Club – IPF has a contemporary urban vibe and some striking imagery. The splash page opens with a stark shot of a hand holding sticks of explosive… This is clearly an event than aims to have impact!

The festival venues are all located in the Brunswick–Fitzroy–Collingwood area of town. These are the new kids on the block and their approach to photography has a no-nonsense immediacy that is both raw and cool.

So, if you are in Melbourne, check out the program for the rest of the week at the IPF website.


Images (from the top; left to right):
FotoFreo: the City of Fremantle Festival of Photography
© Richard Simpkin ‘Michael Jackson’ 1996 form ‘Richard and Famous’
© Martin Parr ‘The Port Headland Polar Bears’ 2012 from ‘No Worries’
© Phillip Tolenado ‘Ava’
© Raghu Rai ‘Mother’ [Mother Teresa]
Queensland Festival of Photography
QFP signature image and logo 2012
© Tony Albert ‘No Place’ 2009
© Martin Smith ‘Revelation 3’
© Petrina Hicks ‘Sphynx’ 2011
© Zhou Jun ‘China Central Television’ 2006
Head On Photo Festival
© Stephen Corey
© Gerwyn Davies ‘or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the ****’
© Brian Cassey ‘Carol – burns survivor’
Ballarat International Foto Biennale
BIFB signature image
© Sarah Louise Jackson
Brian Duffy ‘David Bowie – Aladdin Sane’ 1973 © estate of Brian Duffy
© Jan Saudek ‘Black Sheep and White Crow’ 1995
© Maleonn ‘Little Flagman No. 2’ 2008
Auckland Festival of Photography
© Nataly Hurwitz ‘Tuvaluan Dance’
© Ryan Johnson ‘Auckland’
© Hayley Theyers ‘Silly Boy’ 2011
© Sylvie Boutelje-Chasteau ‘Youth is Wasted on The Young’ 2010
Independent Photography Festival
see IPF website for details

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  • The majority of the texts on this site are by Alasdair Foster and represent his opinions. However, in order to facilitate a useful diversity of views, some texts have been invited from artists and colleagues around the world, while others appear as independent comments. These opinions and comments are not necessarily those of Alasdair Foster or Cultural Development Consulting (CDC). All data and information on this site is provided on an as-is basis. While every effort is made to be as thorough as possible, neither Alasdair Foster nor CDC make representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.
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