Thursday, May 30, 2013

Head On Photo Festival at the Mitchell Library - 30 May

The Head On Photo festival is on at the Mitchell Library until 17 June.  There are three separate prizes. Upstairs in the exhibitions space is the portrait prize.  On the ground floor in the little anteroom that leads to the underground passage to the State Library is the photobook prize.  Apparently the landscapes are in the Paddington Reservoir which I should get to but I haven't yet.  Given this CBD friendly location I've managed to swing by twice, mainly to make my people's choice vote count to the extent it deserves!

Of the prizes on offer my favourite was the photobooks.  There were some great books and the standard of production of these small run (some print runs as low as 1!) editions was amazing.  Here's the website to see the finalists if you can't make it to the Library.  I really enjoyed Stephen Dupont's 'Piksa Niugini' with colourful portraits of contemporary Papuans.  Dan O'Day's documentary style book of two elderly Canberran's 'Ginger & Pearl' was also pretty interesting and nicely produced, it actually won the subcategory for photojournalism. The landscape category was a little weaker, I eagerly flipped through Louise Hawson's 52 Suburbs but found her take on Paddington well wide of the mark. My favourite title was 'An Interview with a Cockatoo (or two)' by Leila Jeffreys (pictured top).  Loyal readers will remember our visit to her show at Tim Olsen last November.  The premise of this book is that she has taken the birds from that exhibit and posed questions to them in the form of a photographic interview.  Leila takes her inspiration from classic photobook 'The Frenchman' where a French actor answers questions with his facial expressions.  My favourite question was 'Can you do an impression of Napoleon?', the answer is pictured below.  Compared to the fantastic selection of photo books I was a little uninspired by the photo portraits upstairs.  Here my art vocab is going to let me down, I can't really put my finger on it but it just seemed a little too 'editorial' rather than 'contemporary art'.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, indeed I gave my people's choice to SMH photographer Dallas Kilponen's entry (above), but it was missing the spark of say an Eric Bridgeman or Liam Benson.

Points:  3 to Leila Jeffrey's book, Big Lamington is seriously becoming an independent publisher to bring this to market!  2 to Stepen Dupont's Niugini book, I'd love him to go next door to West Papua - merdeka!  1 point to Dallas Kilponen's portrait of the sisters running the roadhouse in Oodnadatta.

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