Five photographers you should know from Melbourne’s PHOTO 2021

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The first edition, planned for February 2021, will present an ambitious new festival of photography

PHOTO 2021 features more than 120 photographers in a series of free exhibitions, many staged in partnership with the city’s key public institutions, from the Royal Botanic Gardens to Monash Gallery of Art.

Running 08 February – 07 Mar 2021, collaborations will bring shows to the suburbs and beyond, while outdoor displays put photography in direct encounter with the public — placing Australian talent such as Jesse Boyd-Reid and James Tylor next to international names like Felicity Hammond and Nico Krijno. New commissions invite major figures such as Zanele Muholi to make new work alongside more than 20 Australasian photographers.

The biennale is founded on principles of diversity, inclusion and the support of emerging Australian talent, and its launch theme explores the relationship between photography and truth. With this in mind, we put the focus on emerging Australian talent, featuring five photographers you should know.

© James Tylor.

James Tylor

Economics of Minerals is a continuation of James Tylor’s deep engagement with a range of issues focused on Australia’s colonial history and its contemporary resonances. This ties in with Tylor’s cultural heritage – Māori, European, and Kaurna – the latter being an Indigenous group who are the traditional owners of the lands around Adelaide in South Australia.

“The Kaurna people were removed and displaced from their traditional lands to make way for farming,” Tylor says, “and the government’s assimilation policies from 1901 to 1967, including the Stolen Generations, were a major contributing factor in the loss of knowledge and traditional practices. The process of research and engagement with this history through my practice has opened up my understanding of my own heritage.”

© Georgina Cue.

Georgina Cue

Originally trained as a painter, Georgina Cue spent the first eight years of her career as an artist working with sculpture and set design. Inspired by film noir and cinema, the jump into working with staged photography three years ago seemed like a natural one. Now her latest exhibition, Pictures, is on show at Gertrude Glasshouse, and will form part of Photo 2021. 

Cue’s theatrical stages can be seen as tributes, purposefully rendered with DIY materials such as cardboard, spray paint and tape, restaging Dadaist happenings in a contemporary Australian suburban garage, seeking to test the two-dimensions of the photographic plane. “My practice sometimes feels like making or painting in three-dimensions,” she says, “but I only get excited when I get to turn the sets back into two-dimensions through the act of photographing them.”

© Jesse Boyd-Reid.

Jesse Boyd-Reid

“My work is a form of documentation, but it’s also a celebration,” says Jesse Boyd-Reid, describing his ongoing series, The Gift. The artist’s photographs delicately chronicle his family in a celebration of an everyday life not focused on the trauma so usually connected with being queer in contemporary society. Instead, he shows us an experience of freedom of expression and openness; acceptance and diversity.

Exercising a different perspective to the often political nature of queer narratives, The Gift is simultaneously about home and the photographer’s desire to celebrate and document this universe his family has created — one in which affirmation is the established norm. For Photo 2021, The Gift will be displayed on a 40 square metre hoarding with Metro Tunnel Creative Program, alongside work by Sam Contis and Emmanuelle Andrianjafy.

© Sam Forsyth-Gray.
© Sam Forsyth-Gray.
© Sam Forsyth-Gray.

Sam Forsyth-Gray

Sam Forsyth-Gray’s work, New Archivalia, is on show at Seventh Gallery as part of Photo 2021’s New Photographers initiative. The multimedia project draws on influences from Taryn Simon, Candida Höfer, Lewis Baltz and Alexandra Lethbridge to chronicle the dynamics of the human impulse to preserve, catalogue and document. 

Forsyth-Gray has produced both an interactive video work and a handmade limited-edition photobook that draws together photographs from various archival sites around the country to create a singular imagined archive space. Through a considered and taxonomic approach, Forsyth-Gray touches on the idiosyncrasy and eclecticism of the act of archiving and the dualities that characterise such practices: outdoor/indoor, contemporary/historical, prosaic/artistic, as well as laudably democratic and comically stuffy.

© Emma Phillips.
© Emma Phillips.

Emma Phillips

“It’s a unique and unexpected commission,” Phillips explains of her project, Send Me a Lullaby. “I was granted access to the tunnels underneath [Melbourne], and even though I didn’t shoot much underground, this has given the work I’ve been making around the city a curious subterranean and speculative feel.” 

Phillips’ monochromatic imagery picks out visual details of her hometown, but uses the notion of the city’s concrete landscape being rewritten as a starting point to see Melbourne anew. The resulting series is an experiential tapestry of surfaces of the city: shots of manicured gardens, stone monuments and commonplace shopfronts, all amalgamated into a complex portrait of Melbourne that offers no start, middle or end. 

PHOTO 2021 will take place from 18 February until 7 March 2021.

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