Australian photographers to look out for at PHOTO 2022

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Ahead of this year’s international biennale in Melbourne, themed Being Human, we highlight the artists and shows not to be missed

PHOTO 2022 International Festival of Photography returns to Melbourne from 29 April to 22 May, sprawling across galleries, government buildings and public spaces all over the city. This year’s theme is Being Human, unpacking what makes us who we are through “the narratives of society, self, mortality, nature and history”​​. The international biennale features an impressive range of established Australian and Australia-based artists, including Brook Andrew, Atong Atem, Zoë Croggon, Eric Bridgeman, Samuel Hodge, Hoda Afshar, Leah King-Smith, Tony Albert, Patrick Pound, Angela Tiatia and Ponch Hawkes; alongside international artists such as Vasantha Yogananthan, Philip Montgomery, Annie Wang, Ashfika Rahman, Mohamed Bourouissa, Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Luo Yang, Ioanna Sakellaraki, Gillian Wearing and Alexandra Lethbridge. Part of the PHOTO 2022 vision has been to commission a range of new works, and thus the festival has supported a swathe of projects from emerging Australia-based photographers too, such as Talia Smith, Anu Kumar, Rachel Main, and Olivia Mròz.

The festival spans 123 local and international artists across 90 exhibitions. We have selected three artists exhibiting at PHOTO 2022 to look out for. 

Madeline Bishop

Madeline Bishop’s collaborative work, So I sew stitches, seeks to explore connectivity. She begins by asking her friends and family to refer her to somebody that she has never met. Bishop then photographs these people in their homes at their first meeting. The oscillation between intimacy and distance results in a series of multilayered portraits that examine how we ‘see’ or ‘know’ a person, and how the camera can play a part in this dynamic. The photographs seem tinged with deeply felt post-Covid 19 anxieties that we have all been touched by in recent years. There is a consciousness and strange performativity in how the subjects’ eyes meet the gaze of the lens, and how they ‘hold’ their bodies for the camera. It is as if the months or years of interacting on-screen, via Zoom or the like, have made her subjects preternaturally aware of their physicality, and of how they ‘appear’. What resonates in this work though is an approach to portraiture that feels as if the image is secondary, and what is being shown to be important is a tangible fleeting connection between sitter and photographer, a moment of seeing and being seen. You can find her work outside at the Old Treasury Building, alongside Atong Atem’s Surat and James Henry’s Kulin Generations.

Naomi Hobson

Born in 1978 in Cairns, Australia, Naomi Hobson is an Indigenous Australian artist working with a mixed media practice of painting, photography and ceramics. Hobson’s deceptively simple images belie a deep and meaningful engagement with the issue of representation and self-representation of First Nations people. Her work is shown along the Yarra River (in the centre of Melbourne) in a series of large-scale lightboxes that dot the Southbank Promenade. The river is a place of deep significance and the perfect location for an important statement about contemporary Australia and how young First Nations people are represented. The work, titled Adolescent Wonderland, sees colourfully dressed figures posing against monochrome landscapes and backdrops. When describing the work, Hobson talks of allowing young Indigenous Australians to own their stories, and she does this in a playful and celebratory way. The images have a collaborative feel with a melancholic edge — it is easy to perceive in this work a desire to embrace a future that locates First Nations people at the centre of Australian culture. At the same time, the work does not shy away from the barriers and limitations placed on Indigenous people by those in power. The joyful, vibrant and everyday approach to these images sees this deeper message explored with the positivity and optimism of youth


Alana Holmberg

Another of the many commissions at PHOTO 2022 is Alana Holmberg’s Idle Hours. These images capture people congregating for recreational purposes at beaches, rivers, creeks, lakes and waterholes. The sky and the water are, as to be expected in the Australian summer, blue, clear and welcoming. However, these images also create a tangible sense of unease, as if the people shown are unsure how to function in these settings. They stand frozen, looking, pointing, distracted, paused momentarily in a state of bewilderment. It is as if Melbourne’s long and arduous Covid-19 lockdown has rendered them incapable of recalling how to behave in these leisurely settings. We see the people as if they have been dropped into these locations instantaneously and unexpectedly, and are in the process of collectively reorienting themselves. These wide and luscious tableaux show Australians taking their first steps back into their pre-pandemic lives, becoming reacquainted with what is quintessentially Australian, and in doing so they seem awkwardly hesitant. Idle Hours is just one of the commissions specifically focused on showing meeting places and communities coming together across the state of Victoria. In a time when Victorians have had a restricted ability to gather, the act of coming together has never felt more vital. Holmberg’s images will be exhibited on the steps of Parliament House alongside works by other members of the Oculi collective — Abigail Varney, James Bugg and Rachel Mounsey.

Other highlights include James J Robinson’s theatrical On Golden Days at the brand new Hillvale Gallery in Brunswick; Hoda Afshar’s Speak the Wind on show at the Monash Gallery of Art, and a new series titled Mother Tongue from photo-collage artist Zoë Croggon showing at Daine Singer Gallery. There is also an exhibition, Queering the Frame: Community, Time, Photography, at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, featuring a cross-section of Australian LGBTQ+ artists sweeping across generations from the 1970s to now. Also worth investigating is Ashley Gilbertson’s timely Requiem for New York at the Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria. The closing weekend of PHOTO 2022 will be centred around a major photobook market, hosted by Photography Studies College, and showcasing the Kassel Dummy Award, the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards, the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, and the Australian and Aotearoa Photobook Awards. The photobook market will feature publishers and book-makers from all over the world selling their wares, and will run alongside a series of book launches, talks, workshops and reviews.

1854 Media and British Journal of Photography are proud to be exhibiting the winners Portrait of Humanity Vol. 4 in collaboration with PHOTO 2022.