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Image: Daniele Vita

Wrapping up Head On Photo Festival for 2021, we want to look back at the achievements and milestones we have accomplished. Having to rapidly jump from plan A to plan D in line with Covid-19 restrictions and regulations was no easy feat, but we couldn’t be prouder of what we have achieved. This year has been remarkable and challenging in so many ways, and because of this, bringing accessible art to open spaces has never been more critical. We received a lot of support and praise from the local community and would like to share some of it with you below. 

A few words from our Festival goers 

‘I particularly love seeing photography outside of a traditional gallery… Art is essential, today more than ever…’ – Jo at Paddington Reservoir Gardens  

‘It’s amazing and very different. It’s extremely important to make art accessible, which makes this location so great…’ – Rev at Paddington Reservoir Gardens  

‘It’s really important for Sydney to have an event like this; it makes people think…’ Susan – Paddington Reservoir Gardens 

Interviewed by Lesley Parker 

‘It was very impactful in its insights of a multitude of human experiences. I learned a lot about people’s situations and everything was extremely emotive…’ Unknown – Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Head On Photo Festival 2021: A recap 

A rocky start to Bondi… 

We launched Head On Photo Festival for 2021 Friday, 19 November; and it was a rough start, to say the least. 

Image: Moshe Rosenzveig OAM, photograph of Horace Li’s exhibition ‘The journey home’

One day prior to launch, we were devastated to see that overnight somebody defaced one of our incredible featured exhibitions in a way that suggests racism and xenophobia. See the story here

The exhibition was professionally cleaned and replaced only a few days later thanks to our incredible printers.  

Image: Phil Bayly, photograph of Sylvia Liber’s exhibition ‘Strength and resilience

However, only one week later, 70 km/hr winds hit the coast, damaging 11 of our outdoor exhibitions. Once again, our printing partners (and amazing donors) came to the rescue. See the story here.

Image: Moshe Rosenzveig OAM, photograph of Mar Edward Harris’s exhibition ‘The people of the forest’ 

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We estimated over 400,000 people passed our exhibition locations and we heard some glowing feedback. 

A few words from our Bondi Festival goers 

‘It’s amazing, you’ve got everything here. It’s a good initiative, we must encourage this’ – Achet at Bondi Beach 

‘I like the fact that it’s bringing art to the people, … now [that we] can’t get into a gallery. It’s doing what art does best, making people question, showing what other people think and perhaps giving people empathy’ – Annie at Bondi 

‘I come down with my daughter and look at one exhibition every afternoon. Having some sense of a wider community outside this place is so beautiful, we need more of this’ – Thomas at Bondi 

Interviewed by Phil Bayly 

‘[I like that Head On Photo Festival] is free and that it gives the opportunity to new artists to be seen’ – Andy at Bondi

Head On Photo Award winners were announced!

Image: Stephen Godfrey 

The Launch and Awards ceremony was held on Friday, November 19 online, streamed live from Paddington Reservoir Gardens. One of Australia’s favourite TV personalities Osher Günsberg once again hosted the event in front of a virtual audience of thousands. 

View the Head On Photo Award winners here.


Image: Screen capture from the Royal College Of Music performance

Another addition included an exciting collaboration with the Royal College of Music, where student composers created new works inspired by a selection of images from the 2021 Head On Portrait Awards. You can check out the collaboration here.

Artist talks, workshops + panels 

Image: Moshe Rosenzveig OAM, photographing Jamie James’ artist talk at Paddington Reservoir Gardens 

After a successful online program last year with 80 online events, we were thrilled to have had the opportunity to resume in-person events and stream them online. This year we hosted 29 online and in-person events, and they will be available to watch on-demand shortly.  

These include our highly anticipated Adobe workshops, Artist Talks from exhibiting photographers, and insightful panel discussions.  

Take a look back at our 2020 Festival events in anticipation of our 2021 events here.

Head On Photo Festival 2021: in numbers 

Image: Moshe Rosenzveig OAM, photographing Festival attendees viewing the Portrait Award finalist images within Paddington Reservoir Gardens 

  • Outdoor exhibitions along the entire 700m length of Bondi Beach promenade
  • 750 exhibiting photographers and presenters 
  • 148 in-person + online exhibitions and events 
  • We delivered 29 artist talks, panel discussions, and workshops 
  • Approximately 400,000 visitors to all exhibition venues 

Head On Photo Festival 2022 is on the horizon. We have diverse, engaging, quality work in all genres across still photography, multi-media, and video art lined up; you can still help us present this incredible program of exhibitions and events by donating now.

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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