Head On Photo Festival
Posted: 18 May 2012 | By: Prue Gibson
Moshe Rosenzveig is the Director of Head On Photo Festival. Launched in 2010, the festival has grown from strength to strength, drawing on the success of the Head On Portrait Prize which was inaugurated in 2004. There has been a general attitude of ambivalence towards the standard of work and criteria of gallery inclusion surrounding the festival’s events and exhibitions. However, Rosenzveig embraces this ambivalence; it is the characteristic of the festival of which he is most passionate and proud. The reason is that he has managed to bypass traditional criteria of taste and judgement and moved straight to a populist concept of art, much like the well-attended Sculpture by the Sea annual exhibition.
Rosenzveig, born in 1957, grew up in Israel and studied photography for two intense years: “I learned traditional black and white photography, mainly commercial work. There was lots of chemistry but also a little artistic work.” He soon began work as a photojournalist in Lebanon and the Middle East. After shifting to television work in 1981, he emigrated to Australia in 1984. In Sydney, he worked in commercial photography before moving to SBS, as a cameraman. Soon enough he had been given the task of producing and directing the art show, Imagine, from 1995–96. With such a disparate swathe of experience behind him, Rosenzveig says, “That’s why I’m comfortable with all photographers. I can talk with the fine art, commercial, documentary and journalistic photographers. All of them. There is a hierarchy in the photography world where each clique think they are the best. But they all feel they are the best!”
As for those tricky definitions of excellence, an issue at the heart of Head On, Rosenzveig says, “We say it’s all valid. Whatever people do in the area of photography — using cameras, scanners or videos — it’s all valid expression. If it works, it doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it’s wedding photography or art photography, if it’s good, it’s good.” Rosenzveig’s particular brand of broad-sweep photographic showcasing is enormously popular and gains momentum each year.
In 2011, Head On developed an advisory board. “To be more organised and create a structure, we are turning to corporates for support.” The Board includes the experienced curator and gallery director Sandra Byron, Senior Crown Prosecutor and exhibiting photographer Mark Tedeschi and many more. “We had lots of volunteers in 2011,” says Rosenzveig. “ [Such as] art students from the College of Fine Arts who organised the databases and curated exhibitions. The whole idea of Head On is to provide the opportunity to expose new talent and show great work that is already out there.” Head On has received financial and in-kind support from countless corporate companies and the Canadian, French and German governments. The Australian Government is sure to follow in the footsteps of the City of Sydney in assisting Rosenzveig’s tireless efforts.
The biggest drawcard of the 2012 festival is the appearance of US photographer David Alan Harvey. His work has been published in Burn magazine, the most influential publication in the field, according to Rosenzveig. His show will be photographs of Rio at the Australian Centre for Photography. The work will be published, at around the same time, in the National Geographic Magazine. Alan Harvey will also speak at the 2012 seminar at Bondi Pavilion and he will also do a full week’s workshop.
So what will be the new structure of the festival? “It will be three-tiered,” Rosenzveig explains. “With 130 events under the Head On umbrella in 2011, it became a little unwieldy. So in 2012, there will be the first-tier exhibitions, which Head On will curate, pay for and develop, such as the Head On Portrait Prize or the 2011 French artist Gilbert Garcin at ACP. Then there will be second-tier exhibitions that Head On endorses after a submission process, such as Roslyn Oxley’s exhibition of Bill Henson’s work. The last tier will be associated shows in cafes and lesser-known commercial galleries all over town.”
With Rosenzveig’s inclusive attitude to visual art, new artists will have the chance to find the spotlight. Rosenzveig says, “It seemed to me that the same people were getting exposure over and over again — and not others. We get submissions from all over the world, India, France and the US.” In 2012, there will be an exhibition of US photographers at the Ultimo TAFE exhibition rooms, where the subject theme is New Mexico. In 2012, he will be collaborating with the Sydney Film Festival, The Sydney Writer’s Festival and the Walkley Awards.
It is the independence of Head On that drives Rosenzveig, the ability to open up the discourse, to broaden the pool of ideas and the range of international photographers. The attraction of Head On is its diversity and pluralism. Despite the lack of significant funding, Rosenzveig is indefatigable: “I’m a masochist.”
Images from top:
Giovanni Cocco, from the series Vanishing.
Bruce York, Son & City (after Piero della Francesca’s Duke of Urbino). Head On Portrait Prize 2009 finalist.
Katrin Koening, Sleeping Woman, Head On Portrait Prize 2011 Critic’s Choice.
Daniel Linnet, Tim McGreen. Head On Portrait Prize 2011 finalist.
Eva Leitolf, Orange Grove, Rosarno. From the series Postcards from Europe.
Stephen Corey, The Lot. Head On Portrait Prize 2011 finalist.