What is it?
The Ballarat Foto Biennale is the only one of its kind in Australia, featuring works from elite and emerging photographers from home and abroad. This year is the 12th season and the first overseen by director Fiona Sweet. She says she’s taken the biennale in an artier direction than previous years.
The historic gold rush town is changing, not least because recent years have brought a steady influx of Melbourne tree-changers and artists who have been priced out of the big smoke. “There’s been a lovely little shift towards the focus on arts being very important in this town,” Fiona says.
Who’s coming to see it?
“It’s for arts lovers and audiences who love photography, but also photography enthusiasts who wouldn’t normally go to an arts festival,” Fiona says. “There’s a new audience I’m hoping to capture this year, people who might never go to festivals normally, but who’ll come because photography is such an egalitarian art form.”
Ballarat International Foto Biennale
- August 19-September 17
- David LaChapelle exhibition: $18, free entry to the rest of the biennale
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat Central
The big draw: David LaChapelle
Fiona’s big coup since taking over the reins is to bag the exclusive, first-ever Australian showing of a David LaChapelle exhibition. The iconoclastic American photographer’s career has encompassed advertisements, magazines and working with big names such as Madonna, Andy Warhol, Kurt Cobain and Lady Gaga.
In recent years he’s dedicated himself to his artistic practice, producing colourful works that tend to be described as “hyperreal” or “kitsch pop surrealism”. To put it another way, it’s seriously cool.
“It’s just going to be the most fantastic exhibition,” Fiona says. “I’m shipping it in from Argentina, where it had 50,000 people go through on opening night.”
A Field Guide to the Stars
In exploring how photography has influenced our understanding of space, this exhibition also has the biennale move into the Ballarat Municipal Observatory Museum.
“Nobody’s used it before as a significant exhibition space,” Fiona says. “It’s going to be cold up there, people are going to have to channel Dark Mofo, but there’s going to be a camera obscura and beautiful works from astronomical photographers.”
Martin Kantor competition
Bringing together new commissions and recent works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, this collection articulates the experience of life as an Indigenous person in contemporary Australia.
“This is a really important one, because it’s seven Indigenous photographers with an Indigenous curator,” Fiona says. “In this town, with its history, that’s significant.”
Reverie Revelry: Fashion Through Photography
This collection of works old and new looks at how fashion photography frames human desire and identity. Classic shots from Bruno Benini and Robyn Beeche will be shown beside snaps from contemporary photographers.
“This is going to be so beautiful,” Fiona says. “There’s always a place for absolute beauty.”
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