August 18, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 18th August, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up it's all about the 2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

Special Feature:
2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale

(C) Meg Hewitt Tokyo is Yours - Fringe

Opening tomorrow in the Victorian regional centre of Ballarat, an hour's drive from Melbourne, the 2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) runs for four weeks. Its expansive program promises to showcase work that appeals to a broad audience and the success of the festival is largely pinned on its major drawcard, the blockbuster David LaChapelle exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

This exhibition, which is ticketed (a first for the festival), has received considerable publicity and is advertised on billboards, trains and in the media showing a new level of promotion for this regional event.

LaChapelle's celebrity profile is clearly a great asset for the festival, and his works, some of which you can see in this post, are larger than life, drawing on religious art history tropes and celebrity tackiness. His photographs are lauded in the art world and if nothing else, are most definitely eye-catching, although this type of photography doesn't interest me, as my readers know! Nor does some of the more conceptual photography on show, much of which leaves me cold.

But there are most definitely exhibitions which have caught my attention and for those documentary lovers you won't be disappointed having made the trek to Ballarat. From the Core program my top pick is Rearranging Boundaries, a group show curated by Australian documentary photographer Aaron Bradbrook and featuring the work of Zanele Muholi (South Africa), Tanya Habjouqa (Jordan), Abbas Kowsari (Iran), Wei Leng Tay (China) and Remissa Mak (Cambodia). You can read my feature article on this exhibition in Saturday's Australian Financial Review Weekend.

There are also a number of exhibitions in the large Fringe program which are worth checking out - Lloyd Williams Rustic Remnants, MAP Group's Beyond Borders 2017, Meg Hewitt's Tokyo is Yours and Helga Leunig's Three Weeks in Havana, Tony Evans' The Faces of Sovereign Hill - to name a few. In fact, the Fringe has more appeal for me than the Core this time around.

This year's BIFB is headed by new festival director Fiona Sweet, who has swept into the job, and Ballarat, after a successful career in design and I suspect her background is reflected in the choice of some of the exhibitions such as Reverie Revelry: Fashion Through Photography and LaChapelle. Sweet's agenda, to take the festival from its regional roots and elevate it on the national arts calendar, is ambitious as it is hard enough to get audiences to galleries in the capital cities let alone country towns. Let's hope the program with its stars and its breadth heralds success.

If you're in Melbourne, then it's an easy drive down the highway. For those interstaters, make a weekend of it. I'm sure you won't be disappointed by the program, or by Ballarat, which is one of the most beautiful Victorian country towns, its Gold Rush architecture a visual treat in itself. There's good coffee and food to be found too. So do your bit and support the Arts, because they are vital to the health of our society and shouldn't be undervalued or ignored.

BIFB in pictures - a random selection

Core Program

Rearranging Boundaries
Ballarat Trades Hall

(C) Abbas Kowsari

(C) Remissa Mak

(C) Tanya Habjouqa

(C) Wei Leng Tay

(C) Zanele Muholi

Reverie Revelry: Fashion Through Photography
Ballarat Mechanics Institute

This group show features the work of Robyn Beeche, Noé Sendas, Prue Stent and Honey Long, Nancy de Holl and Matthew Linde.  

(C) Bruno Bernini

(C) Robyn Beeche

(C) Honey Long and Prue Stent, Wind Form 2014

David LaChapelle
-->Art Gallery of Ballarat

(C) David LaChapelle

(C) David LaChapelle

Fringe Program - a selection
(C) Meg Hewitt Tokyo is Yours

(C) Helga Leunig Three Weeks in Havana

(C) Helga Leunig Three Weeks in Havana

(C) Lloyd Williams Rustic Remnants

(C) Lloyd Williams Rustic Remnants

Beyond Borders (C) Jon Clark

(C) Tony Evans The Faces of Sovereign Hill

Ballarat International Foto Biennale
19 August - 17 September

August 11, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 11th August, 2017

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - Christian Thompson documents the world's chronic waste problem with a focus on Ghana, the Bob and Diane Fund calls for entries and a new exhibition at Sydney's Blackeye Gallery. Next week a special feature on the 2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

Photo essay:
Christian Thompson - Waste

(C) Christian Thompson

More often than not photographs do need captions, but in the case of Christian Thompson's visual documentation of the waste problem facing Ghana, these pictures speak for themselves. The west continues to send its waste to foreign shores, and what isn't delivered in containers on ships (which is a huge energy resource drain), washes up on the beaches. And we are all complicit. It is time to stop producing so many things that can't be fixed or can't be safely recycled. Consumption is killing the planet, and its people. For all the things we know today, and for the amazing leaps in technology, we as a species are irrefutably stupid, greedy and bent on our own destruction.

And it is not like we haven't seen images of this kind before. The late, great Stanley Greene's brilliant series on eWaste sent shivers down my spine, especially when he told me how ill he felt shooting in these confined, toxic spaces. But still, he continued to work convinced the world needed to see.

(C) Stanley Greene - India

Greene is not the only one to risk his own health in order to expose these stories.

In India, China and Tibet UK photojournalist Sean Gallagher has documented the environmental degradation caused by industry and mining on the environment.

(C) Sean Gallagher - Tibetan Plateau

Russian photojournalist Vlad Sokhin has photographed communities in the Pacific at risk of disappearing with the rising of the ocean, such as Kiribati.

(C) Vlad Sokhin - Kiribati in the central Pacific ocean

And Canadian Edward Burtynsky has shown the ravages of mining on the landscape.

(C) Edward Burtynsky

These are just a few of the dedicated photographers turning their lens on one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issue to face humankind this century, the destruction of our planet. We have the visual and scientific evidence. Where is the social and political will? As these photos show, we are not doing enough.

(C) Christian Thompson

(C) Christian Thompson

(C) Christian Thompson

(C) Christian Thompson

Entries Open:
Bob and Diane Fund

(C) Maja Daniels

Swedish photographer Maja Daniels was the inaugural grantee of the Bob and Diane Fund Grant created last year by Gina Martin in memory of her parents. In an interview with the New York Times in 2016, Daniels said that she spent a year getting to know the staff and the relatives of patients at the St. Thomas de Villeneuve hospital in Bain-de-Bretagne, France. It was only after developing these close relationships that she picked up her camera. Over the next two years, she photographed those living with Alzheimer Disease or dementia. The result is Into Oblivion,  a beautiful, poignant and very human story, told from the heart.

The grant round for next year opens on 1 September, 2017. You can find out more here

(C) Maja Daniels

(C) Maja Daniels

(C) Maja Daniels

(C) Maja Daniels 

Exhibition: Sydney
Black Lines - Group Show

(C) Chris Round

This exhibition which is currently on at Blackeye Gallery in Sydney’s Darlinghurst features an eclectic selection of photographs that focus on the built environment.

The show includes works by Chris Round, David Manley, Tom Evangelidis, Rob Tuckwell, Tom Blachford, Damien Drew, Rhiannon Slatter, Chris Walters, Terrence Chin, Luc Remond, Rodrigo Vargas, Gary Sheppard, Vin Rathod, Jade Cantwell, Richard Glover and Kate Ballis. 

It’s an engaging collection that shows the photographers' individual approaches and perspectives in capturing our urban environments. 

(C) David Manley

(C) Rhiannon Slatter

(C) Chris Round

(C) Tom Evangelidis

Until 20 August
Blackeye Gallery
3/138 Darlinghurst Road

August 04, 2017

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up - 4th August, 2017

This week Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up goes back to Hong Kong with Benny Lam's Trapped, plus some personal insights from a recent trip.

Photo essay:
Benny Lam - Trapped

According to the Society for Community Organisation, in Hong Kong more than 200,000 people live in what are described as 'Coffin Cubicles,' tiny, cramped spaces that house individuals and also families with children. Pressured by unemployment, rising housing costs and overcrowding, many find themselves with little choice. Greedy landlords divide up rooms and buildings, illegally, and charge more than $USD250 a month for the privilege of living in a room the size of a broom closet. 

Photographer Benny Lam's expose is shocking. He told National Geographic's Proof that through his series called “Trapped,” he "wants to illuminate the suffocating dwellings that exist where the lights of Hong Kong’s prosperity don’t reach. He hopes by making the tenants and their homes visible, more people will start paying attention to the social injustices of their circumstances.

“You may wonder why we should care, as these people are not a part of our lives,” Lam writes on his Facebook page. “They are exactly the people who come into your life every single day: they are serving you as the waiters in the restaurants where you eat, they are the security guards in the shopping malls you wander around, or the cleaners and the delivery men on the streets you pass through. The only difference between us and them is [their homes]. This is a question of human dignity.”

(C) All photos Benny Lam

You can read his story and view more images at National Geographic Proof.

Hong Kong Domestic Workers' Day Off

One Sunday when I was in Hong Kong recently I saw these congregations of women. They were sitting on the sidewalk, on overpasses, outside hotels and up-market shopping centres. At first I thought they were homeless, although the sheer numbers refuted that notion. Quickly I learned their stories.  

Hong Kong’s live-in domestic workers are entitled to only one day off a week. With no place of their own, every Sunday they congregate on the streets, a practice that has been going on since the 1980s. 

Thousands of mostly female Filipino migrant workers bring food, drink and music. They sit with their friends on pieces of cardboard spending the entire day outdoors, and often staying until late into the night. They eat, dance, play cards and chat about their lives and their families who they have left behind - often these women have to leave their own children and travel afar to earn money for the family. 

Most of these women are abused by their employers - underpaid, underfed and forced to live in accommodation that in some instances takes the form of a mat on the floor of a closet. The majority work 16 hour days. 

But some domestic workers are beginning to organise and in recent months there have been protests for improved working conditions. 

Yet another glimpse into a side of Hong Kong that is in stark contrast to the tourism brochures. 

(C) All photos Alison Stieven-Taylor 2017