PHOTO Australia supports universal access to diverse, progressive, meaningful discourse to make sense of ourselves and the world around us. We achieve this through the promotion and commissioning of new photography, connecting Australia to global artists and the celebration of the power of photography to illuminate lived experiences.
Established by Elias Redstone in partnership with founding board members William Bowness AO, Mark Henry and Naomi Milgrom AC, PHOTO Australia is a champion of Australian photographic arts and the producer of PHOTO International Festival of Photography. Every two years we unlock the wealth of photographic expertise, galleries, and unique spaces available throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria to commission, profile and premiere exceptional new work by artists and photographers, generate awareness and build audiences, and connect with the international photographic community.
Our curatorial expertise and advisory networks inform an extensive program working with emerging and established Australian and international artists of the highest calibre, with First Nations artists at the centre. Our presentation model allows cultural, industry, education and publishing partners to participate and benefit from a state-wide artistic and events program, creating a festival moment much greater than the sum of its parts. Through our commitment to diversity and commissioning we drive artform and artist development, and inspire audiences to experience the breadth and depth of photographic interpretation, story-telling, technique and creativity.
Responding to a central theme, each edition of the biennial invites artists, photographers, curators, academics and audiences to interrogate the major issues of our time through a program of exhibitions in galleries as well as outdoor locations in central Melbourne. Conceived as PHOTO 2020, our inaugural festival was postponed due to Covid and delivered as PHOTO 2021. The theme ‘The Truth’ explored the veracity of the photographic image in a time of social media, fake news, and artificial intelligence with artists such as Zanele Muholi, Hoda Afshar, Kenta Cobayashi, James Tylor, Cristina de Middel and Sam Contis.
For PHOTO 2022, the theme ‘Being Human’ addressed the contemporary human condition through the lens of Mortality, Self, Society, Nature and History, with artists including Cindy Sherman, Helmut Newton, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mohamed Bourouissa, Christian Thompson, Atong Atem and Gillian Wearing. PHOTO 2022 won the prestigious Melbourne Award for Arts & Events. Combined, our first two festivals have reached an audience of more than 250,000.
For Melbourne, we provide a focused moment of scale and visibility to celebrate photography, and to heighten the city’s reputation as a cultural capital. Our outdoor program creates a visual energy across the city that reinforces Melbourne’s ambition as a cultural destination. We commission artists to create and present work at an urban scale, at iconic and unexpected sites, and our focus on inclusion and access ensures the majority of our festival program is free for the community. Beyond Melbourne, we extend the festival footprint into regional Victoria and we foster international connections through visiting curator and artist activities.
We also fill a vital role in the national sector. The biennale positions Australia as a peer within the major international photographic festivals network. It is an important time for Australian photography to connect with the world. This increases opportunities for international reciprocity and exchange, market development, promoting collection acquisitions, and overall profiling the quality and excellence of our Australian artists, their unique perspectives and creativity.
However, we are more than a festival. We provide professional development opportunities for photographers at all stages of their careers, alongside commissioning new work and publishing photobooks. We exhibit Australian artists overseas in partnership with international festivals and photography galleries. And our educational partnerships, programs and resources help inspire the next generation of artists, artsworkers, collectors and audiences.
Our vision is that Australian photography is celebrated on the world stage; that our festival program sets the agenda and takes creative risks; that our city – Naarm/Melbourne – is acclaimed as a centre of excellence; and that the value and appreciation of photography in this country is forever changed by our work.
PHOTOGRAPHY HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Artists inspire us to see, question, highlight major issues, imagine and reimagine.
RELATIONSHIPS MAKE US GREATER THAN THE SUM OF OUR PARTS
We strive to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with our audiences, community and sector.
THERE SHOULD BE NO BARRIERS TO EXCELLENCE AND AMBITION
We are committed to making artistic excellence accessible and inclusive to all. We inspire ambition in others.
DIVERSITY ENRICHES US ALL
We embrace and create opportunities for diversity in all its forms and celebrate different voices. We are outward facing, listening and learning beyond what we know.
We exercise inclusiveness and respect by remaining apolitical, impartial and professional as an organisation. In accordance with our corporate responsibilities as a platform for diverse artistic expression, we will not make statements as an organisation that might be interpreted as advocating for any particular political view. This impartiality is to ensure artists’ voices can be supported through an inclusive platform that doesn’t discriminate, censor nor diminish the plethora of expressions they bring to the world.
PHOTO International Festival of Photography
Taking place every two years in Melbourne and cities across regional Victoria, the festival addresses the major issues of our time in a program of free exhibitions, outdoor displays and artist commissions, as well as awards, talks, workshops, tours and film screenings. Presenting ideas critical to contemporary photographic discourse, PHOTO encourages the public to engage with and think about photography and visual culture in new and inspiring ways.
PHOTO Editions is a collaboration between PHOTO Australia and Perimeter Editions to publish photobooks by Australian artists, with a focus on first books.
Photo Australia presents Australian art and photography overseas in partnership with international photography festivals, galleries and cultural organisations. Projects to date include exhibitions by Christian Thompson at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, Atong Atem at Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto, and J Davies at the Hong Kong International Photography Festival.
PHOTO Australia creates tangible career opportunities for artists through the commissioning of new work with support for research, exploration, consultation and creation. With the support of cultural and government partners and through the generosity of our patrons, PHOTO Australia has commissioned over 50 artists to create new work to premiere at PHOTO International Festival of Photography.
New Photographers is PHOTO Australia’s showcase and professional development program to support new talent. Artists selected for the program are provided with mentorship, support and inclusion in a group exhibition at PHOTO International Festival of Photography.
International Curators Programs
PHOTO Australia delivers International Curators Programs to raise the profile of Australian artists and photographers, and develop meaningful introductions which will enable new partnerships, collaborations and market development.