Happy New Year to all my readers!
Welcome to the first edition of Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up for 2021. This week we look back at the year that was with a selection of stories and pictures that featured on the blog in 2020.
In the coming months Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up will continue its mission, to showcase photo essays, profile photographers, review photographic books and exhibitions, and share news on international festivals including Melbourne’s own PHOTO2021 which kicks off in February.
It is only January, and already I’m excited by the breadth of new work being produced, the reimagining of visual storytelling, and the energy of this wonderful global photographic community that I get to write about each week. A community that sustained me through the long days of lockdown in Melbourne in 2020 (112 days, but who’s counting!).
And if you missed the Photojournalism Now: In Conversation video series from 2020, it’s not too late to check out interviews with: Robin Hammond (UK), Renée C. Byer (US), Sean Gallagher (China), Lisette Poole (Mexico), Anastasia Taylor-Lind (UK) and James Whitlow Delano (Japan)
2020 in the rear view mirror
2020 began with much of Australia literally on fire. The most ferocious bushfire season in Australia’s history gripped the nation and seasoned photojournalists such as Nick Moir brought the terror into our homes. In January in response to the fires, the photographic community came together to launch FotoAID, which made its debut in February.
Presenting at FotoAID in Brisbane in February turned out to be the last trip I made before my home town of Melbourne was locked down. As coronavirus entered the vernacular, the bushfires receded from the front pages as a new horror took over.
In February Magnet Galleries in Melbourne hosted what would be one of its last in-gallery exhibitions for the year with Memento: A Retrospective – 10th Annual Women Photographers’ Exhibition for International Women’s Day. Magnet quickly adapted to the new paradigm creating online exhibitions. While the local photography community missed out on live events, a whole world opened up for galleries and visitors alike as shows became virtual.
That month I got to hang out with my dear friend Bangladeshi photographer, activist and scholar Shahidul Alam while he was in Melbourne and to write about his exhibition at the Rubin Center in New York, ‘Truth to Power’.
In March images of pandemic life began to emerge such as Yunghi Kim’s New York Subway and Roger Kisby’s Panic at the Costco.
That month Antonio Faccilongo won the 2020 FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo for his work HABIBI. In Arabic, habibi means “I love you.” This body of work is, at its heart, a love story set in one of the longest and most complicated contemporary conflicts, the Israeli-Palestinian war. Palestinian prisoners’ wives have turned to smuggling sperm in order to conceive children with their husbands who are serving long-term sentences in Israeli jails.
In April some of the most harrowing photographs from the pandemic were published. Taken by Italian photojournalist Alberto Giuliani from Pesaro in Italy, these pictures conveyed the sheer exhaustion of frontline workers in the fight against the coronavirus.
In May Dysturb launched its international urban poster campaign in response to Covid-19 with this picture by New York-based, Australian photographer Ashley Gilbertson.
That month Australia’s premier photo festival Head On went online for the first time, and it proved a resounding success with people participating from around the world viewing online exhibitions, artist talks, seminars and panel discussions like the one I moderated on Australian Photojournalism.
Later in May the Auckland Festival of Photography also went online. The show I had curated, The Female Eye, which had debuted in 2019 at the Pingyao International Photography Festival, became a virtual installation. We couldn’t fly over the ditch, so I took to Zoom to talk about the exhibition. (Zoom, zoom, zoom – that’s all I did for months on end, but thank goodness for a technology that allowed me to stay connected with people around the world).
By June it was clear, certainly for those of us in Melbourne who were looking down the barrel of the second wave, that life online was going to be the norm for 2020. That month I launched the first video interview in the new series Photojournalism Now: In Conversation. The idea was to talk with photojournalists around the world to discover how Covid-19 was impacting the way they worked. Each interview started with that question and then segued into a discussion about various bodies of work. A great way to satisfy my journalistic curiosity and showcase some really important stories. As the series progressed my video editing skills improved and I got better at filming myself!
The first video featured award-winning visual journalist and human rights activist Robin Hammond. Excitingly, the French journal L’Oeil de la Photographie (The Eye of Photography) offered to publish this series also.
That month Queensland underwater photographer Jasmine Carey was awarded first prize in the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA) worth more than $172,000 Aussie dollars! The prize is funded by the crown prince of Dubai. That was certainly a landmark moment for Jasmine and a bright light for Australian photography.
July was the month of photography awards with the World.Report Award Documenting Humanity 2020, the tenth anniversary exhibition of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award and a new Australian competition, Stories. I was thrilled to be part of the jury for the inaugural Stories competition which celebrates long-form photographic storytelling, along with Matthew Abbott, Tom Goldner and Harriet Tarbuck. The three winners – Rory King, Nick Moir and Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd – exemplify the diversity, skill and creativity that is present in Australian photographic storytelling.
That month the second video interview for Photojournalism Now: In Conversation was released on YouTube featuring Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Renée C. Byer who talked about her work covering Covid-19 for The Sacramento Bee in California and her longterm social documentary project, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor.
In August, Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up featured a special on the 32nd edition of the world’s leading photojournalism festival, Visa pour l’Image. That month Bangladeshi photojournalist Mohammad Shahnewaz Khan, founder of Voice of Humanity and Hope (VOHH) Festival also shared his very personal experience of lockdown, turning the camera on himself and his young family.
August also saw the release of the third video interview for Photojournalism Now: In Conversation featuring Beijing-based, award-winning photographer and filmmaker Sean Gallagher who talked about his work on the environment and climate change.
September was a month of reflection. Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up featured stories I’d written for various magazines over the years including interviews with Don McCullin, Sebastiao Salgado and Raghu Rai. There was something reaffirming about revisiting my archives, recognition that my life of travel and adventure was not a dream.
September also saw the release of the fourth instalment for Photojournalism Now: In Conversation. In this interview I spoke with Cuban-American photojournalist Lisette Poole, who is now based in Mexico City, about her new book La paloma y la ley (The dove and the law).
Poole’s book documents the migration journey of two Cuban women, economic migrants in search of a better life. Poole travelled the perilous path which took the women from Havana, inland through South America, and to the US-Mexico border. Poole spent 51 days documenting the emotional and at times harrowing journey.
October rolled around bringing with it the launch of a new Australian photobook, The Mallee – A journey through north-west Victoria. There is something magical about The Mallee and the exquisite photographs in this book capture the heart and soul of this region, evoking the romanticism of Australia’s rural landscapes, the sweeping vistas, vast sky and rich palette.
Burroughs Lamar, an American social documentary photographer who documented his native Harlem from 2008 to 2017, reached out to share a selection from Harlem: Hidden in Plain Sight, an archive of more than 70,000 pictures. “My photographs seek to portray its people as varied, unadorned, and relaxed in this environment for many who may have not seen the qualitative aspects of this community before,” he said.
October was a busy month indeed, with the release of the fifth video interview for Photojournalism Now: In Conversation this one featuring UK-based photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind who talked about her long-term work in Ukraine.
In November I reviewed Peter Mitchell’s book Early Sunday Morning which quickly became a new favourite. The book comprises around 100 photographs of the West Yorkshire city of Leeds in northern England, the majority of which haven’t been published before. Most were taken in the early 1970s when Mitchell was working as a delivery truck driver.
I was also a judge in November for the Australian Photography Awards Documentary Category which was won by Christopher Hopkins for his incredibly emotional photograph “I want to hold her hand.”
That month Sydney photographer Emmanuel Angelicas’ exhibition Silent Agreements – Marrickville – 50 – Home finally opened – it was originally planned for May as part of Head On Photo Festival. For 50 years Angelicas has documented his family, neighbours and strangers, capturing images of Marrickville, its humanity and its dark secrets, without censorship.
The next month I was interviewed for a documentary film on Angelicas (below).
And that brings us to December. In the first week, the final video interview for Photojournalism Now: In Conversation 2020 went live featuring award-winning photojournalist James Whitlow Delano.
The following week I reviewed the book: The Alexia 30 Years. For over 30 years the Alexia Grants have supported the work of documentary photographers around the world, both professionals and students who are working for social change and this book celebrates that work.
The last post for the year featured a story I wrote for the Monash University magazine Lens, “View from my window: Sharing pictures in lockdown.”
And so ends this review of Photojournalism Now 2020. While it was a year that many will be happy to forget, looking back reminds me that a great deal was achieved despite the obstacles! A heartfelt thanks to all the photographers who shared their stories and pictures. It’s time now to look forward…