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Photo credit: Pippa Milne (Headshot) by Evan Mery

We hope you’re enjoying our series of special interviews with this year’s Head On Photo Award Judges.  We like to invite a diverse group of professionals across the sector and today we hear from Pippa Milne, a Melbourne-based curator.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – who are you and what do you do? 

I’m Pippa Milne, I’m the senior curator at Monash Gallery of Art in Melbourne, where we have a fabulous collection of Australian photography. We hold around 3,500 photographs in the collection and produce a program of exhibitions that range from large, international shows, to solo exhibitions, to thematic collection shows. For example, a recent show here was an investigation into the developments in documentary photography over the last few decades. Not standing still: new approaches in documentary photography included 15 artists, 12 of whom were internationals who have had a significant impact on the genre.


Photo credit: MGA Not Standing Still Install – Zan Wimberley

Can you give an overview of one of your typical workdays? 

A curator’s day depends greatly on where in the exhibition schedule we are. Install week means being hands-on in the gallery, but so much of the process of working towards a show is slow and varied, involving lots of emails, research, writing and wrangling. One of my favourite parts of the job is working with an artist at the very early stage of an exhibition when the ideas are endless. Another favourite part is taking tours with groups of people through exhibitions, seeing how they relate to the works and talking about some of the ideas behind the exhibitions. 

What skills are required or personal attributes essential for success in your position? 

Curiosity is key. You’re almost never not working as a curator, because you can gather ideas and leads for a show in so many different areas of life…while reading a novel, listening to a talk, watching a movie…research comes in many forms. A curator needs to want to realise the ideas of artists, and to work with a variety of ideas and objects to bring about an experience that’s cohesive and generative for a visitor. It’s all about gathering and translating through exhibitions.

Photo credit: MGA Not Standing Still Opening – Zan Wimberley

What parts of your job do you find most challenging? Enjoyable? 

Working with artists is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of my job. They are the reason this all comes together, and the challenges that they set through their passion and ideas are the things that keep me up at night with both worry and excitement.

Who or what should we be looking out for in the field today? 

We’ve just been working on a forthcoming show of recent graduates, so I feel full of hope and anticipation for what’s to come from photographers in the emergent phase of their careers.


Thanks to Pippa for this insightful interview.  If you feel inspired to submit to this year’s Head On Photo Awards, hit the button below – now! Entries close 31 May.





Head On Foundation (est. 2008) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting photographers' work at all career stages. We encourage excellence and innovation, make photography accessible to all, and raise awareness of important issues through the medium. The Foundation's main activities are Head On Photo Festival and Head On Awards (Portrait, Landscape, and Student photographic prizes) and an annual program of collaborative projects. Head On Foundation is a bridge between Australian and international photography markets. The festival has toured in the US, China, India, Europe, and New Zealand, introducing the global arts community to the wealth of photographic talent Australia possesses.

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 are open now. $80,000 prize pool including finalists exhibition.

Image detail: Gary Ramage