“This is the most important photography biennial in the southern hemisphere,” says Elias Redstone, artistic director of the International Photography Festival.
Redstone designed the inaugural International Photography Festival in 2020 as a way to “build on the incredible photographic and visual arts community here in Melbourne,” he says. “The idea [was to] bringing the whole sector together to collaborate and have a moment to reflect on photography both as a visual art and the role it plays in our lives.
Of course, the lockdowns in 2020 saw Photo 20 become Photo 21. Now for its follow-up, which spans 24 days across Melbourne, Redstone and his team have worked tirelessly to ensure that the second iteration of the festival is off to a promising start. “It was crazy,” he says of organizing Photo 22. “We organized an incredibly ambitious program. We have 123 artists from around the world in 90 exhibits, and we’ve broken those exhibits down into five little chunks: Parliament, City Hall, State Library, River, and Fitzroy/Collingwood. »
The thread connecting the five quarters is “human being” and its five narrative threads: mortality, self, society, nature and history. “It’s an epic theme,” Redstone said. “It seems so fitting in the aftermath of Covid, when everything we knew was stripped from us and when [what] defining ourselves as human beings was suddenly not possible – whether it was going to work, school, club, restaurant, socializing and interacting.
Redstone says Photo 22 offers the opportunity to “step back and look at what really defines us as human beings. What shapes our identity, what brings us together, what unites us and what makes us unique as individuals.
Bespoke light boxes along Southbank Drive will feature works by First Nations artist Naomi Hobson, who “has documented the stories of young Aboriginal people and their relationship to the river they live on”; the work of New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist Patrick Pound, who “focuses on how humans interact with water”; and local multi-disciplinary performance duo The Huxley’s have created a body of work on “non-binary sea creatures, showing how Mother Nature is less committed to gender than we are as humans”.
Alongside these newly commissioned works by international photography icons in Cindy Sherman, Helmut Newton, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and Mohamed Bourouissa.
With site-specific works found in places as disparate as the courtyard of the Old Melbourne Gaol, inside the NGV and “hidden” in ACDC Lane and other alleyways around the city, the festival layout is designed to reward curiosity, says Redstone. “Photo 22 was conceived as a festival of exploration. The idea is to meet up with friends, have a coffee, take a walk and rediscover the city.