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AddOn adds up

When Charles McKean began inviting photographers into the first AddOn in 2011, some he approached for submissions were sceptical.

“Some asked me, ‘Who do you think you are?’” he recalls.

“I had a few people get really stuck into me saying, ‘I look after artists. Why would they pay to give you a free picture?’”

Another asked why they would want to put an image on display anonymously. But such claims have little impact on McKean. In AddOn’s second year the exhibition has grown enough to give little doubt that many photographers want to be involved – even if it is a concept that involves checking their ego in at the door.

The idea of an exhibition without names, which McKean developed in close consultation with Head On Photo Festival Director Moshe Rosenzveig, attracted over 90 invited guests in its first year. Over 100 will be on display in 2012 at Mary Place Gallery from May 18.

Approximately one third of the calls for entry are sent out to professionals and exhibiting art photographers.

To this a celebrity contingent are added: creative people from other fields who are interested in trying their hand at another discipline. The third section are talented emerging photographers who are not yet making a living out of their image making.

Participants say the sense of freedom is appealing: freedom from their names, freedom from usual equipment and freedom from whatever holes they might be pegged in.

“People tell me they value the spirit of the exhibition,” said McKean.

“The bit they enjoy the most is to be with other photographers who they wouldn’t normally exhibit with.

“There is also excitement and mystery. I don’t want people to look at a wall and to pay more attention to one image because it is from a particular author. I want them to look at the photographs rather the photographer.”

He said new, affordable DSLRs are advertised as giving people the option of shooting like pros. AddOn encourages non-professionals to work hard and professionals to work in simple terms.

“People are swapping boundaries,” said McKean.

“The professionals are having their work presented anonymously and the celebrities are being pushed into a photographic medium. They really stepped up to the plate. Kamahl was invited in and I thought, ‘What is he going to put in, a shot of another celebrity?’ No, he put in a picture of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington because that means a lot to him.”

Submissions are skilfully arranged by Rosenzveig and McKean to create an exhibition and an accompanying book. The AddOn 2011 book received a Silver Award at the Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards.

What are the curators looking for? Anything thought provoking, eclectic, quirky and unique. Well almost anything.

“I don’t want snap shots of kids,” said McKean.

“I don’t want stop action of people falling off horses at rodeos – or the wise Chinese gentleman smoking a pipe in the studio. Or holiday pictures from a market in Thailand.”

To level out the playing field McKean kept the final print size small and square, so non-pros won’t be disadvantaged by their equipment. Mobile phone images are also acceptable, another reason why the square format works well.

Any profits raised go to the Head On Foundation to support and encourage photographers.

AddOn submissions cost $120 which pays for work to be printed and hung, gallery rent, drinks on opening night and a chance to exhibit with some of Australia’s best image makers. After closing somebody else’s image is sent to you at random.

AddOn will be on display at Mary Place Gallery for a week following May 19.

Lyndal Irons

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage