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Photo 2021 bends ‘the truth’

A sample of what’s on offer at Photo 2021.

Victoria’s inaugural Photo 2021 International Festival of Photography, running from February 18 – March 7, has announced the full exhibition program.

With 40 outdoor installations and 39 exhibitions, all exploring Photo 2021’s theme ‘the truth’, the free-to-view events will appear across Melbourne and regional Victorian cities.

It’s a solid program featuring top and emerging Australian and international photographer, and includes a raft of new commissions.

Well-credentialled photographers showing works include the likes of Trent Parke, Hoda Afshar, George Georgiou, Cherine Fahd, Destiny Deacon, James Tylor, Zanele Muholi, Felicity Hammond, Jacky Redgate, Hayley Millar-Baker, Martin Smith, Christopher Day, Michael Cook, Atong Atem, Kate Golding, Emma Phillips, David Noonan, Justine Varga, Patrick Pound, Maree Clarke, Shea Kirk, Daniel Shea, and many others.

There’s something for everyone – from fine art to portraiture, photojournalism and documentary photography, weird and challenging photography, traditional processes and digital creations, work by artists who take themselves seriously and work that’s just fun. Check out the program here.

Most exhibitions will show at Victoria’s public cultural institutions, private galleries, and in outdoor spaces such as the Metro Tunnel.

Photo 2021 will also host a Photobook Weekend event (February 27-28), supported by Australia’s leading photo book manuacturer, Momento Pro, and in partnership with the Centre of Contemporary Photography. There are more events to be announced.

‘The Truth’ – Australia’s largest photo festival. Really?

Throughout our coverage of Photo 2021, Inside Imaging has highlighted how the festival has made slightly overreaching claims. Well, this latest announcement didn’t disappoint.

The festival is now labelling itself ‘Australia’s largest and most significant photography festival’, yet hasn’t even run! It’s previously called itself a ‘world leading’ festival and Australia’s answer to one of Europe’s finest photo festivals, Rencontres d’Arles.

Yes, it’s going to be big, and it’s delightful to have another fantastic photo event not far from Inside Imaging HQ. But the claims of pre-eminence come off as arrogant when Photo 2021 has made few achievements with no runs on the board.

The only contribution to photography so far is a few Zoom interview series, Photo Live, running during the Victorian lock down.

If Australia had no other international photo festivals, there would be no issue making such bold statements. Why diminish Australia’s cherished and long-standing festivals, Head On Photo Festival and the Ballarat International Foto Festival, when you’re the new kid on the block?

From a promotional point of view it makes sense to hype it up, but a simple fix would be to settle with ‘one of Australia’s largest and most significant festivals’. Or maybe ‘Victoria’s biggest annual photo festival’. Since the festival’s theme is ‘the truth’, perhaps Photo 2021 should consider the veracity of its own claims.

(We contacted Photo 2021 for comment but were unsuccessful.)

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