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Head On Photo Award 2021 winners

The Head On Photo Festival, Australia’s leading annual photography event, opened on Friday night November 19, with the announcement of the 2021 Head On Photo Awards winners.

Photo: Gideon Mendel.

UK-based documentary photographer, Gideon Mendel, won the Head On Portrait Prize, sponsored by Sony, for his photo Jenni Bruce at her burnt home in Upper Brogo, New South Wales, January 2020. As described, the sculptor lost her home during the devastating 19/20 bushfires.

‘… It was all gone,’ Bruce said. ‘I had a great workshop with tools that I had spent a lifetime gathering. I had a huge collection of paints and canvases, and I was working on a new body of work to exhibit. It was just devastating to lose that amount of hard work. I wish the people in power would listen; I wish they would stop using industries that are so bad for our environment.

The Portrait Award Australian runner up is Mark Forbes, for his image Perfect Stranger. ‘Sometimes a photo is asking to be taken,’ writes Forbes. ‘This was the case when a perfect stranger walked into the restaurant where I was eating, and I happened to have my camera with me. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Thanks to Terry for being up for this portrait.’

Photo: Mark Forbes.


The International runner up in the Portrait Prize is Irish photographer, Joseph-Philipe Bevillard, for his image, Donoghue Brother, Galway, Ireland, 2019. It shows three brothers, who are part of a travelling community where boxing is a big part of their culture.

Photo:Joseph-Philippe Bevillard.

The Head On Landscape Prize goes to Australian photographer, Aletheia Casey, for A Lost Place, which is a personal reaction to the Australian 19/20 bushfires, which almost destroyed her family home.

Photo: Aletheia Casey.

‘Although I have lived much of my adult life abroad, Australia is, and always will be, my home,’ she said. ‘As I watched the fires from London, feeling powerless to help family and friends, I painted on prints from my last time in Australia with oils and inks. I reworked them in an attempt to implant my fear and powerlessness into the imagery.’

Local runner up for the Landscape Award is Australian photographer, Raoul Slater, with his picture Kangaroo Court; and international runner up is Mexican photographer, Juan Carlos Pinto Márquez, with his work Petals swarm.

Photo: Raoul Slater.
Photo: Juan Carlos Pinto Márquez.

Lastly, the Student Award goes to Chege Mbuthi for his image, By the front door.

‘As I found myself with more spare time, I began to experiment further with my portrait photography. As the name states, I took the shot at the front of my home, which has beautiful soft light filtered through one window, which fell upon my silhouette. The simplicity of the image, combined with the minimal colour, created an aesthetically pleasing image.’

All finalist images can be viewed in exhibitions at the 2021 Head On Photo Festival, which runs until November 28. This year the festival is running both online and in spaces across Sydney. Click here for more info.

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