PHOTO 2020 International Festival of Photography

Melbourne Victoria


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Next year Melbourne and regional Victoria will welcome a major new international festival of photography, the first of its size and scope ever to be undertaken in Australia: PHOTO 2020. Running from April 23-May 10, 2020, the inaugural biennale will present the most inspiring new photography from Australia and around the world and feature over 120 artists across over 40 cultural institutions, museums and galleries. PHOTO 2020’s first program announcement celebrates 33 new artist commissions that will premiere at the festival, and an exclusive education partnership with Magnum Photos.

“PHOTO 2020 is a huge celebration of new photography and new ideas,” says PHOTO 2020’s Artistic Director Elias Redstone. “A series of new commissions—most of which will be presented on the streets of Melbourne—will bring the city alive with inspiring art. It will be an exciting time for people to think about the role photography plays in our lives and to celebrate Melbourne’s position as a capital of photography.”

Presenting ideas critical to contemporary photographic discourse, all of the festival’s exhibitions and outdoor programs will be free, creating an accessible and democratic festival.

The theme of PHOTO 2020 invites artists, curators, writers and academics to explore the critical relationship between photography and truth. Photography is intrinsically and infinitely subjective, and the choices photographers make shape how we view the world. While the veracity of the photographic image has always been contested, today the relationship between what we see and what we believe is more complex than ever.

“Exploring the power of truth in photography is more important than ever in our current social, political and cultural climate,” says Elias Redstone. “We have curated a considered and compelling line-up of photographers and artists with diverse life experiences to reflect on what the truth means to them.”

Committed to presenting new ideas and fresh thinking, and supporting artists to develop and present new projects, PHOTO 2020 has commissioned new work from high profile international and Australian artists including:

Spanish artist Cristina de Middel and British artist Martin Parr will both be visiting Melbourne as part of a Magnum Live Lab. These globally renowned photographers will create new work in Melbourne throughout PHOTO 2020 that will form a pop-up exhibition as the festival progresses, in partnership with RMIT Project Space. De Middel responds to the festival’s theme of truth though her blend of documentary and conceptual photographic practices. Parr’s term for the overwhelming power of published images is “propaganda”. Parr’s photographs offer the viewer the opportunity to see the world from his unique perspective, and he counters this propaganda with his own chosen weapons: criticism, seduction and humour.

Acclaimed South African visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi has been commissioned to exhibit new work outside Melbourne Town Hall, one of a number of ambitious outdoor presentations supported by the City of Melbourne. For over a decade they have documented black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people’s lives in various townships in South Africa. In a collaboration with the Biennale of Sydney, Muholi will present new work across Melbourne and Sydney before their first major mid-career survey exhibition at Tate Modern at the end of April 2020.

The City of Melbourne is also supporting commissions by Victorian artists Kate Golding, Laura Delaney and Gunditjmara artist Hayley Millar-Baker. Millar-Baker was awarded the inaugural Photography Fellowship – a collaboration between State Library Victoria and PHOTO 2020. Her work will focus on the history of Victoria from an Aboriginal perspective, weaving new narratives on old ‘truths’ by reconstructing written, verbal and visual histories from the library archives with her own photography and visual archive.

Award-winning Iranian / Australian artist Hoda Afshar will create a new suite of work focusing on the topical issue of whistleblowing—which in recent Australian history has been instrumental in giving voice to the otherwise unheard and ignored in immigration, aged care, youth detention and disability care. Afshar was the recipient of the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize for her portrait of Behrouz Boochani—part of a collaborative project between Afshar and the men held on Manus Island by the Australian government.

Selected as the PHOTO 2020 Photographer in Residence for Metro Tunnel Creative Program, Australian photographer Emma Phillips will create a visual portrait of Melbourne and its people. Phillips is one of several artists that PHOTO 2020 are commissioning with Metro Tunnel Creative Program to present large scale outdoor works in Melbourne, including: Emmanuelle Andrianjafy (Madagascar), Jesse Boyd-Reid (Australia), Kenta Cobayashi (Japan), Sam Contis (USA), George Georgiou (UK), Felicity Hammond (UK), Nico Krijno (South Africa), Lillian O’Neil (Australia), Alan Stewart (Taungurung / Philippines), Ann Shelton (New Zealand), James Tylor (Kaurna / Māori / European Australia) and Amanda Williams (Australia).

For the first time, the Parliament of Victoria will welcome a Photographer in Residence, Melbourne-based artist Eliza Hutchinson, whose work is embedded in the politics of the now. Through merging personal and public imagery, her practice investigates the way imagery is consumed in our current media-saturated environment. The personal and political blur together, exploring our complex psychological relationship to photography and visual culture.

Danish collective Sara, Peter and Tobias will present an installation exploring how artificial intelligence, robotics and simulation theory shape our understanding of reality; Sydney-based artist Sara Oscar will reveal a new work re-appropriating police mug shots from archival records; and Wiradjuri Celtic artist and Artistic Director of NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, Brook Andrew will create a new work for PHOTO 2020 in a commission supported by the City of Stonnington. Andrew’s practice challenges cultural and historical perception to comment on local and global issues regarding race, consumerism and history.

Other artists being commissioned by PHOTO 2020’s program partners include South Sudanese / Australian artist Atong Atem Immigration Museum; Danica Chappell (Australia) for La Trobe Art Institute; Cherine Fahd (Australia) for Australian Centre for Photography; and James Nguyen (Australia), Luke Parker (Australia), Steven Rhall (Taungurung (Australia)), Yvonne Todd (New Zealand), Grace Wood (Australia) and Emmaline Zanelli (Australia) in a program for the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens, curated by Isobel Parker Philip, Senior Curator of Contemporary Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. 

These commissions will be presented alongside an extensive program of free exhibitions at public galleries in Melbourne and across Victoria, including NGV, Monash Gallery of Art, Centre for Contemporary Photography and Koorie Heritage Trust amongst others. Selected commercial galleries and artist-run initiatives have also been invited to premiere new work by Australian and international artists, celebrating emerging and established artists from across the arts ecosystem.

PHOTO 2020’s events and education program, supported by Creative Victoria, will be focused on the Festival Hub at State Library Victoria. This will feature the first iteration of the Magnum Photos x PHOTO 2020 Student Intensive and will include lectures, portfolio reviews and an intensive workshop with Magnum’s international photographers and network of industry experts. The outcome of the workshop will be a zine of students work which will also be showcased on the Magnum Photos website. This publication will capture conversations from the event, the challenges of working as a photographer today and advice for how to navigate these issues for use by the wider photographic community.

The Visiting International Curators program will bring influential curators from around the world to experience PHOTO 2020 and a parallel program of studio and gallery visits, talks, performances, artist meetings and industry networking events. The Visiting International Curators program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The full program for PHOTO 2020 International Festival of Photography will be announced in March 2020.

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