PHOTO 2021 brings groundbreaking new art back to the streets and galleries of Melbourne

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In a vibrant celebration of a new “COVID normal” Victoria, the inaugural PHOTO 2021 International Festival of Photography will reanimate the city with work from both established and emerging international artists between 18 February – 7 March 2021

A brand new entry to the global arts and culture calendar – and Australia’s biggest photography festival yet – PHOTO 2021 is uniting artists, curators, writers and academics around the world to probe our perceptions of ‘The Truth’. No matter how conscious we are of photography’s intrinsic subjectivity, the choices photographers make still shape how we view the world. And 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.

© Zan Wimberly.

“Whether it be alternative facts, augmented reality or artificial intelligence, our notions and encounters of truth are constantly being questioned, eroded and at times attacked,” says Mark Henry, Chair of PHOTO 2021. “There has been no more important time for our society to discuss and debate the issues of finding, sourcing and understanding the truth.”

With this in mind, over 120 artists are set to showcase rich and thought-provoking work at over 65 cultural institutions, museums, galleries and iconic outdoor spaces — carrying extra poignancy in the wake of the state’s six-month hiatus due to the pandemic — including new commissions and works from artists such as Zanele Muholi (South Africa), Sam Contis (USA), Hoda Afshar (Iran/Australia), Brook Andrew (Wiradjuri/Celtic, Australia), Patrick Waterhouse (UK), Daniel Shea (USA), Yvonne Todd (NZ), Hayley Millar-Baker (Gunditjmara, Australia), Atong Atem (South Sudan/Australia) and many more.

© Zan Wimberly.
© J Forsythe.

The PHOTO 2021 x Metro Tunnel Creative Program will display over 500 metres of art comprised of new work from Felicity Hammond (UK), Kenta Cobayashi (Japan), Ann Shelton (New Zealand), James Tylor (Australia), and more, with most works being specifically commissioned to premiere at the festival. Other Australian premieres from international artists include works from Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs (Switzerland), Emmanuelle Andrianjafy (Madagascar), Broomberg & Chanarin (South Africa/UK), Sara Cwynar (Canada), Simon Fujiwara (UK/Japan), Nanna Heitmann (Germany/Russia), Sim Chi Yin (Singapore), and Gustavo Germano (Argentina).

Also exhibiting as part of the outdoor programme is British Journal of Photography’s own Portrait of Humanity 2021: a timely celebration of human strength and community at a moment when the world needs it most. Curated by a panel of photo editors, directors and curators from leading institutions, the three series and 30 single images on show offer a vast and moving exploration of what it means to be human at a momentous time in our history.

Portrait of Humanity 2021 Single Image Winners. Image © J Forsythe.
Portrait of Humanity 2021 Single Image Winners. Image © J Forsythe.

Audiences unable to make it to Melbourne are invited to experience many of the same physical events through the PHOTO 2021 Virtual Tour, alongside two further online subsections to the programme: PHOTO IDEAS and PHOTO LIVE. Broadcast digitally, PHOTO IDEAS is an expanded symposium on photography, truth and power in the post-internet age. Over six sessions, leading international and local artists, curators and academics will address a range of critical themes, creatively exploring how new methods of making, sharing and viewing photographs are shifting our perception of reality. 

Meanwhile, PHOTO LIVE is a series of artist conversations about the social and cultural role photography plays in our lives. In conversation with curators, academics and practitioners, these exchanges will address a range of issues from identity, community and belonging to human rights and social justice.

PHOTO 2021 International Festival of Photography is on until 7 March 2021.

Portrait of Humanity 2021 Single Image Winners. Image © J Forsythe.
Portrait of Humanity 2021 Winner Edgar Martins. Image © J Forsythe.
Portrait of Humanity 2021 Winner Hyoyeon Kim. Image © J Forsythe.
Flossie Skelton

Flossie Skelton joined British Journal of Photography in 2019, where she is currently Commissioning Editor across awards, Studio and partner content. She does freelance writing, editing and campaign work across arts, culture and feminism; she has worked with BBC Arts, Belfast Photo Festival and Time’s Up. She is also an illustrator, with artwork published in Marie Claire, ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style and the Guardian.