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Things we learnt at 2020 Head On

With hundreds of online events, much can be learnt from the safety of home at the 2020 Head On Photo Festival.

In our coverage of the event, it was positively impossible for Inside Imaging to include everything that was memorable in one 1500-word article.

So here, in an easy-to-digest listicle-style format, are a few extra things we learnt at Head On.

No one can judge you online

At Inside Imaging HQ, somewhere down the Victoria West Coast, we have been greeted with beautiful Autumn weather. Sunny skies and light winds – ideal conditions to safely exercise in the ocean, which has become awfully popular since Coronavirus came a’knocking. But a small conundrum on this fine Saturday, in less than an hour, Paula Bronstein was to give an artist talk to truly kick off the festival. The beauty of modern technology is that, within five minutes this editor went from being immersed in the water, to dripping wet and tuning into a Head On artist talk in the car with a laptop tethered to the phone data. It’s quite likely that someone, somewhere, was guilty of having a much more embarrassing appearance while listening to the artist talk.

The Chinese can party

Shanghai-based Australian photographer, Dave Tacon, doesn’t mind the Shanghai nightlife. The nightclub, M1NT, claims to shower customers in more Dom Pérignon than anywhere else in the world, and also has baby sharks in fish tanks, which are routinely replaced after dying from the thumping bass. Whether it’s the extremely wealthy bottle service customers in the VIP section dressed to impress, or the punters looking for love on the dance floor, everyone in the Shanghai scene shares one thing in common: they can’t stop looking at their phones.

Photo: Dave Tacon. Source: Head On.

Truth is subjective
The respected photojournalists in the panel discussion, Australian Photojournalism, agreed it’s impossible to capture the ‘absolute truth’ and be completely objective. But it’s still imperative to strive for balance and recognise any pre-existing biases. Inside Imaging roughly transcribed the following, in no particular order:
Brian Cassey: to be perfectly honest, we inevitably put our own slant on it. It’s impossible to be completely and utterly unbiased, because we all got your own take on it.
Jessica Hromas: We all come with a set of experiences, which alters how we do things. But I do think there is a need to be objective and open. Every assignment you’re constantly assessing and reassessing what is the purpose, who is the audience.
Ben Bohane: Objectivity is a myth. I try to use the idea of balance. You’ve always got the ability to put yourself in others viewpoints, and try to understand where they are coming from. But we’re always subjective. I’d never striven for objectivity, because I don’t believe it exists but I do for balance.
Moshe Rosenzveig: It’s always subjective, and what we want to tell. It’s only accurate in our eyes, so it always has this other element to it. But I try to always remember what my biases are, and so if I know where I’m coming from, I can be aware of my reality.

#MeToo or…?
Despite the #MeToo era we’re in, Brian Cassey discovered there are plenty of young ladies in Cairns who are delighted to get up on stage with some hunky male strippers performers, and perform alongside them. Something about it seemed somewhat contradictory to the current Twittersphere narrative that those inner-city lefties are hung up on.

Photo: Brian Cassey. Source: Head On.

Smiles and attitude
When photographing someone at a public event, their first reaction will most likely be a smile. Pierre Dalpe will use this as a bargaining chip – let them smile, but then ask for some attitude. ‘It can be more revealing if someone is thinking for a second, and putting on a serious face’.

Videographers are worse than photographers
While photographers seem to sometimes have a bad reputation for disrupting emergency services in crises situations, photo editors and photographers remarked that inexperienced videographers have been much worst in the last few years.

Nick Moir is an extreme weatherman
If you are stuck in a bushfire zone, Nick Moir is the person you want by your side. With two decades experience researching and covering extreme weather events, and plenty of training about bushfire behaviour, he knows where to be and when, and crucially when to leave.

A few holiday snaps
Melbourne-based photojournalist, Alex Coppel, was holidaying at his parents’ home in Malua Bay on the NSW South Coast when fires broke out. His incredible photos of civilians and farm animals stranded on a beach, which went viral on social media, were captured in just 20 minutes as he ducked out from the family home to check out the scene. While shooting on the beach, he was desperately worried about his family, but the photojournalist in him knew this was an important story. After capturing a few quick shots, he quickly made his way back to his family and began to evacuate.

A photo of Alex Coppel’s family during the NSW South Coast bushfires. Photo: Alex Coppel. Source: Head On.

Online innovation
Q&A sessions can be done quite successfully by having a Head On organiser call a participating artist and hold the phone to a computer microphone with it on loudspeaker, as was the case with Marrickville photographer, Emmanuel Angelicas.

Technical difficulties
While humanity has developed technology that can take us to the moon, capture images on mars, and map the ocean floor, it will be a few more years before live streaming reaches maturity. Live Webinar is a great platform for hosting online events, but all the stars must align for it to work without glitches or technical issues. All hosts need a fast and smooth internet connection, a quality PC microphone and webcam, and users must remember to click ‘unmute’ on videos!

Quiet stories
Not all Head On exhibitions need to be a complex, powerful or stunning. Concrete Jungle by Sydney-based travel photographer Yasmin Mund, is an intimate and beautiful project documenting the lives of ordinary Australians living in a decrepit apartment building in Tamarama. She realised there was an interesting story within the walls of Glenview Court after living there for three years.

Photo: Yasmin Mund. Source: Head On.

Stick to one project
The esteemed panel of portfolio reviewers agreed that, if submitting a portfolio review for assessment, try to keep within one theme or series rather than a broad selection of hero images.

Scan, but don’t cheat
Fine art photographer, Jeff Moorfoot, had his portfolio reviewed and admitted to being a ‘cheater’ after contemporary American artist and academic, Jennifer Greenburg, questioned why the border of his images made with a flatbed scanner featured a film rebate. Daylight books founder, Michael Itkoff, said he felt the film rebate inclusion is ‘disingenuous’, to which Jeff howled with laughter.

This image by Jeff Moorfoot does not include the film rebate border. Photo: Jeff Moorfoot. Source: Head On.

Click here to attend the 2020 Head On Photo Festival, running until May 17.

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