The Australian Centre for Photography will ‘go into hibernation’ on 16 December due to a lack of funds caused by the COVID-19 lockdown, arts funding cuts and reduced workshop revenue.

The Centre, which was conceived by photojournalist, David Moore and opened in 1974, was well-known for launching a number of famous careers, including Tracey Moffatt and Bill Henson, was also the venue for early exhibitions by William Yang and Trent Parke, and the first retrospectives of Max Dupain, Olive Cotton, and Mervyn Bishop. It also provided tuition for amateur and professional photographers.  However, its annual revenue from workshops declined from $995,000 in 2011 to $110,000 in 2020 in part because increased use of smartphones has done away with much of the training required for snapshooters, while professional training has shifted to university and TAFE courses. It was not included in Australia Council funding in 2019 and failed to qualify for the rescue and recovery money from Create NSW provided for COVID-affected enterprises.

Click here to read a Guardian Australia opinion piece in which Bill Henson and Tracey Moffatt reflect on the closure of the ACP.

ACP Chairman, Michael Blomfield, commented: Calling a halt now allows us to protect the capital we have and undertake a period of consultation with stakeholders as to how we use that capital to create a permanent legacy for the organisation.

Following the Photostart 2020 exhibition, the organisation will be ‘put into hibernation’ and the four full-time, two part-time staff and 15 casual tutors will lose their jobs. A consultative committee will be formed to discuss how to best to restructure the organisation and safeguard the legacy of the ACP and utilise what remains of the proceeds from the 2014sale of its Paddington gallery. Options are believed to include using the funds to establish a photography prize, a partnership with a state institution, or a scholarship program to support studies in photography. A decision is likely by July 2021.

According to industry newsletter, Inside Imaging,  It’s a shame the NSW government and other funding bodies allowed financial support for a premier arts organisation to slip, especially given there are so few in photography. This comes shortly after the Victorian government allocated almost $7 million to establishing a new National Centre of Photography in Ballarat.

We hope to be able to keep Photo Review’s readers posted on any future developments.