The opening of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale on Friday, September 4 at the elegant old Ballarat Mining Exchange (pictured below) was a triumph for the small group of volunteers who have worked selflessly over six years to establish a world class festival of photography in rural Victoria.
September 11, 2009: The opening of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale on Friday, September 4 at the elegant old Ballarat Mining Exchange (pictured below) was a triumph for the small group of volunteers who have worked selflessly over six years to establish a world class festival of photography in rural Victoria.
It also represents a milestone in the history of Australian photography.
The director of the massive undertaking, Jeff Moorfoot (who had been hanging pictures until about 10 minutes before the large opening crowd began to arrive), related how it was a close run thing that the event actually came into being this time ’round.
After organising Biennales in 2005 and 2007 in and around Daylesford, Moorfoot, BIFB president Julie Millowick and a small group of volunteers were exhausted, and disillusioned with the paucity of support from state and local government, various sources of arts funding, and most companies and organisations in the photographic industry.
(But credit where it’s due: photographic companies supporting the event include Kodak – which has been there from the very first – Ted’s Cameras, Lowepro and Photo Review magazine and website.)
The organiser of Foto Freo, a now well-established photographic festival in Fremantle, WA, urged Moorfoot to have one last dip, telling him that it wasn’t until the third event that you get an undertaking like this on the map, so to speak.
…And moving south on the map to Ballarat seems to have made all the difference!
Recognising the cultural and tourism potential of the Biennale, Ballarat City Council supplied BIFB with office space and other resources, and a level of cooperation and assistance which had been sadly lacking at Hepburn Shire, where Moorfoot and most of the organising volunteers are residents.
‘When we started six years ago we only had a rag – we couldn’t even find any oil for it,’ Moorfoot quipped. He said by coming to Ballarat they had moved up in the world. ‘We’re now on a shoestring’.
‘It’s an event born or passion and enthusiasm, but it can’t exist on enthusiasm alone,’ he said, noting that Foto Freo 2010 had an operating budget of $700,000 and Rencontres d’Arles in France, the granddaddy of all festivals of photography, now in its 40th year, has a budget of 3.4 Euros (about $5.6 million)
Creating an event with the scope and stature of Arles for Australia is Moorfoot’s ultimate vision. “It may take a year or two, but we feel our star is on the rise.”
The Mayor of Ballarat, Judy Verlin, noted at the opening that Ballarat’s cafes, hotels, guest houses, restaurants and wineries would benefit immensely from the 40,000 extra visitors the BIFB would attract over the four weeks of the event, and sincerely thanked the Biennale organisers for what they had brought to the regional city.
…That’s it for the back story! The important thing for anyone within striking distance of Ballarat (and with cheap airfares, that includes a lot of Australian photo enthusiasts) is to get there over the next three weeks.
The last two Biennales were uplifting, exciting and inspiring. This one is even better!
The three components are:
The BIFB’09 Core Program: This is is the flagship of the Biennale, featuring a selection of some of the best contemporary photography from Australia and around the world. Most of the 20+ Core Program exhibitions will be staged at venues in and around the Ballarat Heritage and Arts precinct, with most no more than 5 minutes walking distance of each other.
Fringe Program: The BIFB’09 Fringe Program offers an eclectic mix of all things photographic. From cutting edge installation to open entry group shows, to exhibitions by community groups covering everything from fine art to science, from landscape to still life, from hard news to fantasy. Chances are you will find something in the Fringe to tickle your fancy.
Education Program: The Biennale is not just about looking. There is an impressive lineup of workshops, seminars, lectures, artist floor talks and projections evenings featuring everything from Analog to Ziatype. Participation in the education program at BIFB’09 will be both stimulating and affordable, and bookings are open.
Photo Review has been featuring photographers whose work is on exhibition over the past two issues.
For a mere taste of what’s on show, check out:
From PR Issue 40:
From PR Issue 41
For more information on BIFB, go to: www.ballaratfoto.org