Fraud Blocker

First time exhibiting

A first-timer tells what it’s like to be part of the Head On Photo Festival.

Bluescapes opens Saturday 18 INDE Artspace, Level 4, 119 Kippax St, Surry Hills. Words by Kirsten Spry.  

Exhibiting your photography is one of the most daunting and rewarding experiences you can have as a photographer. The annual Head On Photo Festival is an ideal way to get your images seen by a wide variety of people.

Reiner Spliedt is a first-time exhibitor in this year’s show. Here he shares what triggered his decision to exhibit, what’s it like being part of the Festival, and what he’s had to do to get ready to show.

“It’s been my long-term goal to have an exhibition like this. For me it’s all about building credibility as a photographer,” Reiner says.

“During the 2011 Head On Photo Festival I had a chance meeting with the Festival’s founder, Moshe Rosenzveig. I admired his drive and determination. This is the biggest photo festival in Australia and second biggest in the world. And I was impressed by the Festival’s inclusive ethos,” he says.

While the Head On Photo Festival attracts some famous names, it’s not elitist in any way. The Festival’s aim is to promote photography as an art form. Because of the democratic way it allows many photographers to exhibit in the festival it presents a very egalitarian view – a true snapshot of contemporary photography.

When you make a submission to be part of the Festival, several things can happen. You can submit for the Festival organisers to match you with a gallery; you might then be selected to be a Featured show or an Associated show and then introduced to galleries. If you already have a venue then you can also submit; again, you might be invited to be a Featured or Associated Show.

The cost for ‘associated shows’ secures a place in the printed and online programs, info about your show on an individual page on Head On’s website, and space in their media kit which is delivered to key journalists. Also, the show is listed in the weekly news-letters that are distributed during the festival.

After signing up with Head On and agreeing to rent the gallery, the 3-month countdown to opening began.

“Luckily, I’d already shot the images,” explains Reiner. “The biggest challenge was making a selection, the edit.”

Marco Bok, a respected local photographer and mentor to Reiner played a key role in providing direction for the show. “Not only did I need an objective review but it’s great to have the support of a photographer whose opinion I really trust.”

“The Head On website and blog has also been a great help,” reports Reiner. “There’s info on there from first time exhibitors in previous years about having your first show. It was there I learned the need for a technical statement and an artist statement.”

In preparing for the show Reiner has had to consider a great number of things simultaneously. These can be loosely grouped into four items.

1. Artwork: selection, printing and framing.

2. Promotion: invites to friends as well as interested people, flyers for distribution in Reiner’s local area as well as nearby the gallery, press releases to selected newspapers, details for event listing websites, social media activities such as creating a Facebook page in order to interact with the large online community, and updating my own website. As I sought sponsorship for some of my costs so have had to make these applications and ensure my sponsors are well looked after.

3. Venue: making sure there is adequate signage about my show, hanging the work, signing contracts, manning the space, communicating via their website and network.

4. Opening night: catering, music and creating a good time and the best impression.

“Each of these items has required extensive research and decision-making, not to mention time and money,” he says.

“It’s been a steep learning curve. For example, after speaking to photography galleries I changed my ideas about framing. They told me people like to imagine the image in their house or office so you don’t want framing to distract them from that.”

“And after speaking to framers I learned I need to leave specific margins around the prints,” he continues.

“When I spoke to printers, I learned I needed to make test prints first. And that some printers would be so busy in the lead up to the festival printing other photographers work that I might miss out altogether!”

So the good news is that while hosting your own exhibition is a huge task, the rewards are worth it. The bad news is that now you’ll have to wait until later in the year to submit.

In the meantime, check out some of this year’s shows, including Reiner Spliedt’s Bluescapes exhibition that takes a look at Sydney’s industrial heritage and features images of sites like White Bay Power Station in Balmain and Cockatoo Island.

Bluescapes By Reiner Spliedt

Opening night: 18 May, 5-8pm.

Exhibition: 18 May to 2 June

INDE Artspace, Level 4, 119 Kippax St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

T: 02  9211 9928

Wed to Fri 12pm–6pm, Sat & Sun 11am–5pm

Presented in association with the 2013 Head On Festival.

bg-ctap-mobile bg-ctap-desktop

Head On Photo Awards 2024

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

Image detail: Gary Ramage