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BIFB’s upcoming festival goes ticketed

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) – August 28 – October 24, 2021 – will showcase a retrospective exhibition of celebrity photographer, Linda McCartney, as its headline show.

Linda McCartney shot this image of The Beatles during the Abbey Road cover shoot.

While perusing BIFB’s press material, Inside Imaging discovered the festival has a newly-adopted paid ticketing system for the entire indoor Core Program, a reasonably noteworthy new policy which apparently didn’t warrant a formal announcement.

BIFB attendees will be aware that only the 2016 and 2018 headline shows were ticketed, while all remaining exhibitions were free to attend. Making the indoor Core Program a pay-to-view experience won’t suddenly result in a boycott from dedicated BIFB visitors, as they likely coughed up the entry fee for previous headliners, Liu Bolin and/or Dave LaChapelle.

It’s more likely to impact the casual foot traffic – the random walk-ins, and curious locals. People with a couple of hours to kill in the ‘Rat. It’s wishful thinking to hope these kind-of attendees will be willing to cough up $18 for a photography show they randomly stumbled into.

BIFB told Inside Imaging the revamped ticketing system is solely to ‘provide additional safety measures for audiences’.

Back to Linda McCartney

According to Wikipedia, Linda McCartney was ‘best known as the first wife of Paul McCartney of the Beatles and for her photographs of celebrities and contemporary musicians’.

Her career spanned from 1965 until 1997, with the photographer passing away in 1998. She was the first female to have work feature on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and McCartney  photographed celebrities such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Otis Reading, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, The Beach Boys, The Who, The Kinks, Eric Clapton, and many others. Of course, she also documented her life with Paul McCartney, and this access gave her a ‘uniquely intimate visual perspective on the biggest band in the world’.

Linda McCartney, Self Portrait with Paul, London, 1970.

‘There’s a rich tapestry of photographs of her time in London when she was able to capture really significant musicians, artists and writers,’ said BIFB director, Fiona Sweet, to the ABC. ‘Not formal portraits, but having that intimate relationship with those significant artists, she was able to capture that little moment before a major event. A lot of the photos are very much a moment in time.’

In the press release Sweet compares McCartney’s ‘fortuitous’ photos as being ‘in the vein’ of work by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans – a comparison lifted from the photographer’s website Bio: ‘The pictures by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston… inspired and influenced Linda’s work’. According to Sweet, the Linda McCartney: Retrospective is a ‘massive coup’ for Australia, and she has been working on securing it for over three years. This included trips to England to negotiate in-person with the photographer’s foundation.

The exhibition is curated by Paul, and daughters Mary and Stella McCartney, and they’ve all received an invite to attend the festival. Ballarat’s leading newspaper, The Courier, has drummed up the possibility that Sir Paul may actually attend! Although our correspondence with BIFB suggests the paper may have gotten carried away, as the substance of this speculation is based entirely on his role curating the exhibition. He’s yet to RSVP or hit ‘Attend’ on a Facebook event. And, well, he may not wish to leave his Sussex mansion amid what may still be an ongoing global pandemic.

BIFB goes vego

Linda McCartney was an animal rights activist and vegetarian. Her name is even branded on a line of vegetarian burger patties and sausages, currently on sale at Woolworths. To celebrate the Retrospective, BIFB’s catering will be entirely vegetarian. Sweet is ambitiously hoping BIFB’s participating hospitality venues – the cafes, bars, pizzerias, pubs and restaurants – will introduce a vegetarian menu during the event.

‘We’re wanting to discuss all the things about Linda’s life, not just her work but also the way she embraced vegetarianism. I think she would have been thrilled that we had included a broader part of who she was in this festival,’ she told the ABC. ‘A lot of restaurants have photographic exhibitions as part of the biennale’s open program and we’re going to talk to them soon about whether they might introduce a vegetarian menu that we can then promote to audiences.’


BIFB didn’t respond to Inside Imaging‘s request for further comment regarding tickets and Paul McCartney’s attendance.

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