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Head On launches photo talks, reviews and replays

Sydney’s Head On Photo Festival has unveiled two new education programs – Spotlight, a monthly series of one-hour talks with leading international photographers, kicking off on July 1 with influential American photo artist Roger Ballen; and one-on-one portfolio reviews.

Head On Roger Ballen
Photos by Roger Ballen.

For those who missed this year’s Head On Photo Festival live online events, replays are running from now until the end of the year.

Spotlight talks are free for Head On members, with membership costing just $50 per annum ($70 from July 1). Along with other benefits, this also supports running the festival. Spotlight sessions are $15 for non-members. Click here for more info.

The talks will be hosted on Head On’s video conferencing platform and follows a similar format to the workshops and panel discussions from May. Inside Imaging has published Roger Ballen’s bio below.

The private Portfolio Reviews are also online, and are divided in 20-minute and hour-long one-on-one sessions with local and international photography experts. The shorter sessions cost $60, while the hour sessions are $175. Each session can be tailored to specific needs, whether that’s finding strengths and weaknesses, curating a portfolio that sells, identifying shots to build a body of work around, technical guidance, and so on.

Reviewers include Sydney Morning Herald photo editor Nicky Catley, Sydney-based commercial photographer Simon Harsent, Australian curator and mentor Sandy Edwards, Israeli photographers Oded Wagenstein and Natan Dvir, Russia’s PhotoVisa festival director Irina Chmyrev, Head On director Moshe Rosenzveig, American artist Jennifer Greenburg, and American photographer and publisher Michael Itkoff.

Each reviewer is subject to availability. More info here.

Lastly, Head On is replaying a selection of the best free artist talks and events from the festival. While the events are replays they are broadcasting twice, 12pm or 6pm AEST, on scheduled days. The replays are showing now and the program for July is available.

Here’s an excerpt of Roger Ballen’s website bio:

One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21 st century, Roger Ballen’s photographs span over forty years.  His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.
Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg.

Over the past thirty five years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in the exhibition his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series’ Outland (2000, revised in 2015) and Shadow Chamber (2005) collaborating to create powerful psychodramas.

The line between fantasy and reality in his subsequent series’ Boarding House (2009) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) became increasingly blurred and in these series he employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. There was an absence of people altogether, replaced by photographs of individuals now used as props, by doll or dummy parts or where people did appear it was as disembodied hands, feet and mouths poking disturbingly through walls and pieces of rag. The often improvised scenarios were now completed by the unpredictable behaviour of animals whose ambiguous behaviour became crucial to the overall meaning of the photographs. In this phase Ballen invented a new hybrid aesthetic, but one still rooted firmly in black and white photography.

In his artistic practice, Ballen has increasingly been won over by the possibilities of integrating photography and drawing. He has expanded his repertoire and extended his visual language. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, the artist has not only made a lasting contribution to the field of art but equally has made a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.

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