Image credit: Matt Palmer


We caught up with Matt Palmer, 2016 AIPP Master of Photography, who is working with us again this year after his successful online presentations as part of our 2020 Head On Photo Festival.  This year he joins us as one of our esteemed Head On Photo Awards judges.  

Please tell us a bit about yourself – what is your background and how did you come to photography/art?   

Initially, my career was well cemented in graphic design, working in architectural, medical and then sporting industries. I took a camera to a live music performance and 15 years later I was looking back on a music photography folio featuring hundreds of the world’s top performers. I’ve also photographed architecture, portraiture, weddings and commercial work throughout my career. It was around five years ago that I began speaking through my photography, in terms of producing projects like Faces of Islam, and ASH which is a documentation of climate change exacerbated fire damage in Tasmania. Joining the wider creative community through the AIPP, and engaging with organisations such as Head On, further refined my creative skills as well as how I think about what photography can be.

Image credit: Matt Palmer

Tell us about your work – what does it aim to say or how does it address contemporary social or political issues?   

My photography is a great joy to me first and foremost. Most of my life was spent without a known reason for being until I discovered the pleasure of interpreting the world through a lens. I’m not sure I can make sense of that feeling, it just is. Beyond that, I try to state my opinions about the world, which are fairly strong opinions, through creative work in an effort to engage others and hopefully make this planet a better place for all of us. That’s particularly true of projects such as Faces of Islam which interviewed Muslims in Brisbane, and recent photographic work in the takayna/Tarkine region of Tasmania. Other projects may be in support of someone else’s message such as acting as an ambassador of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where my body of work was created as a way of processing mourning and guilt of killing an animal as a byproduct of my photography (it ran under my back tire while I was slowly driving home from a shoot), and trying to create something ultimately good from that.

Who or what influences your work?   

I am mostly influenced by social issues and instinct, some of that instinct being cultivated by my design background and some that have developed purely in photography and working with the specific subject matter as part of a project.

I find when I am incredibly inspired by a body of photographic work, I am too late to that idea as it must be great to be inspiring, and I should come up with another anyway! There are photographers and peers whose work I hugely appreciate but mostly I aspire to be like others in the quality of their character as people, and let my work evolve organically and as it may.

Image credit: Matt Palmer

How do you know when a body of work is finished?   

I think a body of work is finished when it tells the story from beginning to end, without any serious omissions in how I see that story told. Otherwise, it’s simply when the passion for that subject matter begins wavering in favour of exploring another and out of respect for the project, I must resolve it in some meaningful way.

How do you seek out opportunities?   

I think when seeking out opportunities, often we’re working with other people. Often the worst thing we imagine when pitching an idea for a project to others is a firm no, and if that isn’t so bad then what is the harm of trying each time? Some ideas are my own ‘what if’, and others are when I hear about something that is happening that sounds interesting or important. Then I start asking questions and trying to understand as much as I can.

How have you developed your career?   

I sometimes joke that my career has been a progression of me choosing lesser paying jobs until finally, I become the epitome of a starving artist. That said there are very many highly successful photographers, even art photographers, and I aim to live a good life that allows me the freedom to share with others. I think when developing your career it’s extremely important to take time to create your own work, not just work for clients. It’s your own work that can really drive you forward and open up new opportunities as you show who you really are artistically and creatively. 

I am passionate about the creative industry in Australia and giving something positive to the community so I am working as the Operations Manager for AIPP. I am very grateful that AIPP has never put me in a box and put their trust in me. As a creative I think we’re often typecast and looked to when it’s time to ‘make something look good’. However many photographers and creatives are powerful communicators and leaders. We see that with Head On, AIPP, and other organisations that are led and run by creative people. Creativity and art can make a positive contribution in every level of society, corporation and government.

Image credit: Matt Palmer

Thanks to Matt for this great interview.  You can see more of Matt’s work on his website

Now you have met a few of our acclaimed judges, enter your images into this year’s Head On Photo Awards before they close on 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 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage