The 2020 Head On Photo Festival is remarkably going ahead with a physical event in November, with some of the finest 25 exhibitions from the program appearing at venues around Sydney.
When Covid seeped into Australia earlier this year, prompting lockdowns across the country, the Head On organisers were left with less than two months to adapt the nation’s leading annual photography event into an online format.
Head On was the first photo festival to run entirely online, and one of the biggest Australian art shows to run without disruption during the nation-wide lockdown. It’s also the only major Australian arts festival to run twice in a year, having quickly adapted to run an entire digital event, and also rolled out a physical event once it became feasible. It’s baffling the festival remains desperately underfunded by both the public and private sector.
Following the success of the online festival organisers hinted at the possibility of running a scaled-back physical event in November, but made no promises given the unpredictability of the pandemic. A couple of weeks ago during the Head On Spotlight online video session with Judith Nangala Crispin, Head On director Moshe Rosenzveig gave the physical festival a green light.
Returning on November 9 – 24, exhibitions will show outdoors at the iconic Bondi Beach promenade and fabulous Paddington Reservoir Gardens; along with shows at Sydney galleries. Here’s what and where to see 2020 Head On exhibitions in the flesh!
Bondi Beach promenade
Sony Alpha Award finalists bringing together some of the most outstanding images from across Australia and New Zealand captured on Sony cameras;
– American photographer Bob Newman’s Irish Travellers, tells the story of the historically nomadic group kept on the margins of Irish society;
– Nuclear Landscapes by Australian/American photographer Brett Leigh Dicks documents topographies and often abandoned sites across the United States associated with atomic energy;
– Chinese photographer and filmmaker Lei Wei’s The Good Earth captures his homeland of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, which has been lived on for millennia by Han and Mongolian people;
– Spanish documentary photographer Susana Girón’s 90 Varas is an intimate and poetic portrait of one of the last nomad families in the heart of Spain and Europe;
– Double Trouble: Exposing Women in Street is a collaboration between Unexposed Collective and Women in Street presenting the work of contemporary women street photographers from around the world;
– Guatemalan photographer Astrid Blazsek-Ayala’s Mythological Imaginings looks at the intersections between Mayan cultural heritage and Western civilisation;
– Shanghai: Decadence with Chinese Characteristics by Shanghai-based photographer Dave Tacon captures the excitement and contradictions of Shanghai’s culture;
– Greek photographer Nikolaos Menoudarakos’s Comfortably Wild documents the drag queen scene of Athens;
– Award-winning artist and photographer Daniel Kneebone’s Alice-ism explores the age-old ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ with the grandeur of theatrical performance.
Paddington Reservoir Gardens
– Paris-based Australian artist, Vee Speer’s The Birthday Party, eternalises the last days of childhood with timeless portraits;
– Neo Pride by Australian photojournalist Jake Nowakowski is the culmination of four years documenting violent race rallies in Melbourne;
– Australian photojournalist Brian Cassey’s “Me too! … where the boys are … the girls are” documents male burlesque dance group MenXclusive;
– Photographer Odette Cavill’s Change Room Series One explores what is politically incorrect or socially unacceptable as she photographs men in changing rooms;
– Amygdala by Dutch photographer Du Choff translates his thoughts, feelings and fantasies into this series of portraits.
Disorder Gallery, Darlinghurst
– Award-winning British photographer Professor Richard Sawdon Smith reflects on past lives playing with gender, identity, sexuality, subjectivity, masculinity, and everything in between;
– American artist Diana Nicholette Jeon’s Nights as Inexorable as the Sea considers the quirky and unpredictable nature of dreams and memories.
Other Sydney galleries
– Paper Tigers at Twenty Twenty Six Gallery, Bondi Beach, is a celebration of the best of Australian photojournalism, featuring sixty images from sixty of the best Australian photojournalists;
– Brian Hodges’ Acholiland – portraits of resistance from Northern Uganda at Gaffa Gallery, captures the resilience of the human spirit following years of conflict in Uganda;
– Australian photographer Emmanuel Angelicas presents his expansive archive of his home suburb on Marrickville at the ATLAS Community & Cultural Centre;
– Multi-award-winning artist Belinda Mason’s Breaking Silent Codes at Delmar Gallery presents portraits of First Nations women from across Australian and the Pacific who came together to share stories of cultural and spiritual responses to the issue of family & domestic violence and sexual assault;
– New Zealand photographer Ilan Wittenberg’s From Here to Africa at Ted’s world of imaging is a collection of captivating portraits of the Maasai people from Tanzania;
– South Korea’s leading photographer Koo Bohnchang’s Light Shadow at The Korean Cultural Centre captures the unique beauty of Korean baekja (white porcelain);
– Internationally-acclaimed exhibition Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the world’s best nature photography exhibition returns to the Australian National Maritime Museum;
– Every picture tells a story – a collection of the most iconic photographs in music history and the stories behind them at Blender Gallery presents some of the most iconic photographs in music and rock and roll history and the stories behind them;
– Journalism students from (UTS) met and interviewed communities across NSW about life in ‘the new normal’ of a changing environment, savage bushfires and extended droughts.
The exhibitions are supported by Head On’s major partner, Sony, and the Waverley and Woollahra Councils. The Council kindly reminds all visitors to stay home if you’re feelin’ crook, wash those filthy hands, and don’t get in anyone’s personal space. Visit the Head On website for more info.