Review :: Head On Photo Prize

June 10th 2011


Apparently, photography is a way of life. A way of life, indeed, for those represented at the Head On Portrait Prize, currently showing at the Australian Centre for Photography in Paddington. In it’s second consecutive year and at the epicentre of the Head On Photo Festival, the portrait prize showcases the work of emerging and established photographers where emphasis is placed on the power of image rather than celebrity status of the photographer. The exhibition demonstrates the stimulating diversity of new and traditional photographic practices, only however, to be let down by a rather poorly executed set up. Nonetheless, there is certainly work that deserves honourable mention, so here’s just a few…

Winners, Grey by Shauna Greyerbiehl, Michael Leslie by James Brickwood and Why Am I A Marine by Stephen Dupont are all obvious stands outs, but let us not forget the other work that is just as worthy of critical acclaim.

Greg Nagal’s Haumana & Shark is at once striking. Haumana, an indigenous youngster stands in front of us with a shark draped over his shoulders and stares at us with an enigmatic gaze. In pristine black and white print, the image is powerful and speaks of mans intimate connection with the environment. To Nagal’s credit there is a serene calmness to the work. The shark assumes beauty as Haumana’s ethereal presence reminds us that there is nothing to fear in nature.

Deon Van Den Berg’s Juda is also high up there on my list. In this image we see a photo of a female child in the shower. Censored by a frosted up shower screen and remnants of fallen water, the photographic subject, Juda presses her hands and nose up against us. The colour photo explores notions of mother and child, modes of seeing and being seen and the viewers interaction with art.

A work going against what seems to be a rather politically juicy exhibition is that called Sleeping Beauty by Amanda Clark. Here we have a portrait depicting 4 young boys asleep on the back car seat. The grainy texture and muted lighting gives the work an authentic vintage aesthetic and evokes fond childhood memories, family fun and an air of impending summer.

This years’ Head On Portrait Prize should be commended for it’s neatly packaged showcase of some of our country’s best, but if you’re after something that will really get you thinking it doesn’t quite cut it. If you do decide to visit, however, be sure to make a quick lap the Centre’s composite exhibition: Gilbert Garcin: The Man Who is an Image, which investigates the plight of the individual in an ominous and existential world.

What: Head On Portrait Prize

Where: Australian Centre for Photography, Paddington

When: Until June 11th

How much: Free



Read more from Nick La Rosa