The plight of Australia’s homeless or the elderly affected by Ukraine’s war is brought to light thanks to Head On, a renowned photo festival gone online.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain: the humanity of the moment,” claimed Robert Frank, the famous Swiss documentary photographer, whose black-and-white images revealed the many facets of life in America. What the Australian photo festival Head On proves every year is that humanity and all its manifestations, including kindness, tolerance, sympathy, as well as fear, anger, and even hatred, can take many forms. And that the lines between emotions may not be as explicit as we’d often like to believe.
Due to the global pandemic, the renowned event had to take its rich, 2020 program consisting of more than a hundred exhibitions online. However, the transition hasn’t diminished the powerful experience it brings to the audience every year and has confirmed Head On’s place among the most impactful photographic festivals in the world.
The wide range of displays, all of which are available at no cost, includes Watch and Act, a feature made of images of burning Australia taken by agency and newspaper photographers, or Nam Contact, a showing that focuses on the oeuvre of Tim Page, a British photographer who chronicled the horrors of the Vietnam War. In contrast, Nikos Menoudarakos’ series Comfortably Wild portrays the faces and bodies of the contemporary drag scene in Athens, and Paula Bronstein’s work explains how the War in Donbass affects the Ukrainian elderly.
From a more artistic perspective, Stephen Burstow’s Screening Bedtime depicts a couple whose intimate life is invaded by modern technologies. At the same time, Jake Nowakowski’s Neo Pride is as raw as the alt-right demonstrations it illustrates. The program also includes a moving story on the Polish tradition of preparing clothes for death by Anna Bedynnska, or a collective exhibition about the extremities of life along the Yangtze, China’s longest river. Alex Frayne’s Overseers of Streets that centers on the plight of Australia’s homeless is similarly chilling.
But Head On doesn’t discriminate, and you can also browse many exhibitions that are dedicated to landscapes, wildlife, and digital art forms. These brilliant presentations are then complemented by the artworks of the Head On Portrait Award finalists, twenty young talents nominated for the student prize, and numerous free talks and workshops.