BIFB hinges on broad awareness

Fans of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (August 19 – September 17) have less than a month to discover whether the approach of new director Fiona Sweet results in increased attendance and support.

The David LaChapelle exhibition is featured on a ‘train wrap’ to help promote the BIFB event.

The decision to headline the four-week event with the ‘blockbuster’ Dave LaChapelle exhibition and charge an $18 admission fee is a major departure from the approach of founding director, Jeff Moorfoot. The success of the BIFB in 2017 will to a certain extent hinge on whether the LaChappelle exhibition has the pulling power to bring paying visitors to Ballarat.

‘David La Chapelle is one of the rare photographers able to transcend the barriers between fine art and commercial photography, often with a profound social message. I have loved his work for years,ever since I bought his book 12 years ago,’ said Fiona Sweet. ‘When I realised he had never exhibited in Australia I knew that LaChapelle would be incredibly significant for the Biennale, and for Australia, and I am thrilled he agreed to exhibit with us as an Australian first.’

The program this year is more overtly socially progressive, with an exhibition focus on indigenous photographers, feminism, the LGBT community, immigration and colonialism. The litmus test will be whether BIFB can maintain a strong level of attendance from ‘rusted on’ lovers of photography, while also appealing to people whose interest is more broadly focussed on photography as a medium to address social issues.

This in turn will depend on the success of the BIFB marketing campaign. Photography enthusiasts and professional photographers will be aware of the event (although perhaps not as keenly as in previous years, where Jeff Moorfoot and former publicist Fiona Brook used their photo magazine and website contacts to good effect). ‘Photo nerds’ will make a judgement on whether to attend based on the appeal of the entire program. It will be critical to also attract a broader audience to cover the no doubt considerable cost of the LaChapelle show.

‘We expect tickets sales to increase as the exhibition draws near,’ Fiona Sweet told ProCounter several weeks ago.

‘We started our marketing program a couple of weeks ago, our program has been distributed in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, we are really excited to have a billboard on the Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne and we are getting a great following of new and old audiences on Instagram and Facebook,’ she said.

‘We have a number of interviews lined up with not only David LaChapelle, but curators from our other core programs including ‘Tell’, ‘Rearranging Boundaries’, ‘A Field Guide To The Stars’, ‘Reverie Revelry’ and artists from our Fringe Program.’ (LaChapelle himself is not visiting Australia for the BIFB.)

The BIFB’s publicist has since informed ProCounter that in addition to the Tulla billboard, there will be a train wrapped in BIFB livery as well (see above), although no other details were provided.

BIFB presents an overview: 
From abandoned Japanese theme parks, to Italy’s magical Dolomite Mountains, bodybuilding poses, and our obsession with selfies, to some of the world’s greatest photographers including iconoclastic American superstar, David LaChapelle, the 7th Ballarat International Foto Biennale will showcase over 100 exhibitions from local and international artists over 30 days from 19 August – 17 September.

The only photographic biennale in Australia, BIFB has attracted a huge range of elite and emerging photographers since it began in 2005. Ballarat is home to Australia’s oldest and largest regional art gallery and notable heritage locations, with the Core Program of the Biennale taking place at the beautiful Art Gallery of Ballarat, The Mining Exchange, the Minerva Room, The Ballarat Observatory, Post Office Gallery and the Town Hall.

New artistic director Fiona Sweet’s first Biennale program will also include participatory events, workshops, talks, portfolio reviews, education programs and outdoor events along with a Fringe Program staged at more than 70 cafes, galleries and wine bars across the city, providing the launch pad for hundreds of new and emerging artists.

Highlights of the 2017 program include: David LaChapelle’s first solo exhibition in Australia is the proud centrepiece of the 2017 program and will showcase over 60 of LaChapelle’s works spanning the last three decades. Starting his career in the 1980s, LaChapelle is known worldwide for his unique, hyper-realistic aesthetic. His images have graced the covers of Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and Rolling Stone and he has photographed some of the most recognisable faces on the planet, from Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston to Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton.

TELL shines a spotlight on contemporary Indigenous artists and their photographic practices. Featuring 17 acclaimed Indigenous photographers, TELL, curated by emerging Indigenous curator, Jessica Clark, will include work from Moorina Bonini, Maree Clarke, Bindi Cole Chocka, Brenda L Croft, Destiny Deacon, Deanne Gilson, Robert Fielding, Jody Haines, Dianne Jones, Ricky Maynard, Hayley Millar-Baker, Kent Morris, Pitcha Makin Fellas, Steven Rhall, Damien Shen, James Tylor and Warwick Thornton.

Seduced by the nostalgia of mid-20th century fashion photography, Michelle Mountain will curate vintage and contemporary fashion photographers. Revelry Reverie: Fashion Through Photography reflects on the work of Bruno Benini, one of Australia’s most sophisticated and graceful fashion photographers. Alongside Benini’s work, this exhibition considers the practices of other contemporary artists and photographers working with fashion images including Robyn Beeche, Noé Sendas, Prue Stent, Honey Long, Nancy de Holl and Matthew Linde/Centre For Style.

The pouting selfie, the bathroom selfie, the I-just-woke-up-like-this selfie, the gym selfie, the celebrity selfie – what’s really behind the selfie phenomenon in the 21st century and what does it say about our society today? SELF/SELFIE is an exhibition explores the whimsical nature of selfies, but also their contribution to the growing culture of narcissism and promotion of conformist behaviour.

The Milky Way so close you can almost taste it, breath-taking snaps of the galaxy seen with the naked eye, satellites, shooting stars and rolling clouds in the horizon. A Field Guide to the Stars explores how space might be understood through photomedia. Curated by Rebecca Najdowski, the exhibition will feature the work of Eric William Carroll, Clare Benson, Alex Cherney, Hillary Wiedemann, Kate Golding, Kate Robertson and Rebecca Najdowski.

Iranian born Maziar Moradi’s exhibition Ich Werde Deutsch (I become German) explores the powerful and personal experiences of young people who were forced to leave their countries and start anew as immigrants in Germany.

Curated by award winning Australian photographer Aaron Bradbrook, Rearranging Boundaries brings together leading documentary photographers and visual activists from some of the most reported-upon and scrutinised regions of the globe including works by Zanele Muholi (South Africa), Tanya Habjouqa (Jordan/US), Abbas Kowsari (Iran), Wei Leng Tay (China-Singapore) and Remissa Mak (Cambodia).

A Biennale first is the free Public Outdoor Program, with photography displayed around the streets of Ballarat. Iranian photographers Shadi Ghardirian and Gohar Dashti will this year shine a light on gender and social issues in Iran from women in traditional clothing posing with mountain bikes – forbidden for women to use – to the more overtly political.

Ballarat’s leading provider of regional news, The Courier joins BIFB to celebrate their 150-year anniversary. The Courier: 150 Years Of Telling Ballarat’s Story is an exhibition highlighting significant Ballarat photojournalists and significant events in Ballarat’s history. Over three weekends, each weekend will exhibit 50 years of the publication with projections of key moments and images on Lydiard House.

A series of workshops cater to amateur and other photographers wanting to upskill, giving photographers plenty of hands-on experience – from wedding photography to food and wine shoots, the art of post production, night sky photography, time-lapse animation. Workshop attendees will get the chance to learn and apply these newfound skills practically, guided by leading practitioners.

A long-standing tradition of BIFB, Portfolio Review invites photographers and artists from all over the world to discuss their portfolios and gain feedback, insight and advice from respected photographers, gallery owners, art experts and academics in one-to-one sessions. Expert reviewers include international guests Bonnie Rubenstein, Artistic Director of CONTACT Photography Festival (Canada) and Karen McQuaid, Senior Curator at The Photographers’ Gallery (London).

BIFB will be enriched by a series of live events including Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier. The beloved Australian duo will present an intimate night of music in the lush surrounds of the Ballarat Synagogue.

For the first time in 2017, the Biennale will include the Martin Kantor Portrait Prize. Named in honour of the late portrait photographer Martin Kantor, the $15,000 prize is awarded for a photographic artwork of a significant Australian. Although the prize only attracted 150 entries, those entering are among the top names in Australian photography, including Tamara Dean, Brian Cassey annd John Gollings.

The exhibition will take place at the Ballarat Town Hall and the winner will be announced at 2pm on Sunday August 20.

‘The 2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale is a feast for the image-obsessed  – which is all of us – and photographers, photography enthusiasts and arts lovers. The town will be immersed in photography and the small city of Ballarat is ideal in its accessibility, everything is within 10 minutes of each other. This is about discovery of photography within the unique spaces of Ballarat,’ said Fiona Sweet.

Images (uncredited) courtesy of BIFB.

For further details go to | #bifb2017








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