Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 12 November 2021

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – a preview to Head On Photo Festival 2021 which kicks off 19 November.

But first, New Normal Photojournalism, a University of Melbourne virtual exhibition held in conjunction with Magnet Galleries, Melbourne that “showcases the captivating work of budding photojournalists studying at the Centre for Advancing Journalism.”

Virtual Exhibition

New Normal Photojournalism

I was intrigued to see an email pop into my inbox recently with New Normal Photojournalism in the subject line. What does new normal mean? As readers of Photojournalism Now know, exploring the changing face of photojournalism in the digital age is something I’ve explored first as a journalist and later as scholar for over a decade.

As opposed to photojournalism’s new normal, a hotly contested concept, this exhibition focuses on humanity’s new normal in the flux of Covid-19 – I was going to say wake, but as we know, the pandemic is far from over. These student photojournalists, “have documented the pandemic from deep inside it, living and witnessing waves of devastation and renewal in bubbles across Australia, India and China. Their images capture how life prevails, in new and unexpected ways, within our ‘new normal’.

Concepts span the gamut of pandemic experiences and the combination of images shot in Australia, China, India and elsewhere give further credence to the idea that we are all in this together.  It also shows that despite the challenges with long distance online learning, it does deliver a visually rich cross-cultural experience.

Much like the lemons, Phoebe Moodie (20) and Rachel McIsaac (23) believe their friendship has ripened during lockdown. Here they sit on their front fence and share excess lemons with neighbours and strangers passing by. Photo. Harry Sekulich
Ning Gan focuses on playing mobile games, it’s another way she keeps distracted from her uncomfortable commute from Taizhou Railway Station, Zhejiang province, China. Photo. Jiaxi Zhou
Thick plastic sheeting separates the driver’s cab from the passenger seats as they transport passengers from Changchun airport to a quarantine hotel nearby. Based on China’s strict COVID-19 prevention regulations, people requiring a secondary quarantine closer to home are not allowed to take any public transportation, nor are they allowed to have contact with their family members until their full second quarantine period is served, totalling up to one month isolation in most cases. Jilin Province, China. Photo – Zifeng Zhang

There are pictures that show what quarantine looks like in China like Zifeng Zhang’s picture above. Others make social commentary on the way that the pandemic has normalised an environment of extraordinary surveillance, a theme captured in Die Hu’s picture of the QR cube. 

Jing Huang likes the design of this eye-catching QR Code design, she can also scan it for Covid-related information. Photo. Die Hu

And there are those that convey the need to connect with other living beings while in isolation.

Patience the rabbit, provides companionship during the unprecedented global health crisis – COVID-19 and Melbourne’s sixth lockdown. Self portrait by Aleesha Paul
Xi Chen is eating pizza and french fries at St Kilda Beach dusk, the smell of the delicacies attracts many new friendly strangers. Photo. Chenlu Chen
Monk Huizhi, who was practicing in Hongguang Temple, took a picture of a Corgi with his mobile phone after finishing chanting. Photo. Yuehan Duan
Check out the Virtual Exhibition hosted by Magnet Galleries, Melbourne, who have become experts in the online experience.


Head On Photo 2021

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t been to Head On in Sydney for two years now, a much loved event that I look forward to. Last year Head On transitioned online and the virtual festival was fabulous. This year I was honoured to be a member of the festival program selection committee. There were hundreds of amazing projects submitted by artists from around the world. The final program is a reflection of the exciting ways in which the medium of photography is being employed to tell stories that traverse the human experience.

Head On runs from 19-28 November. There are both virtual and in-real-life events. The first event is the virtual opening on Friday 19 November 7.30pm AEST, where the winners of the Head On Photo Awards will be announced. RSVP here.

Here are my six picks (because I can only publish six photographs at a time!)

Kadri Elcoat Postcards from the Edge (of South Melbourne). This series of quirky self-portraits were shot in Elcoat’s home in South Melbourne during the 112 day lockdown in 2020. In these pictures Elcoat recreates activities that she cannot do in lockdown, “an irreverent story of a life lost.”

Women on the Move is part of The Everyday Projects and documents the stories of women migrants and the unique challenges they face. In this picture by Mridula Amin, “Sajeda Bahadurmia and her daughter Asma Bahadurmia (16) – embrace in Clovelly, a beach suburb in Sydney half an hour from Lakemba. Asma likes to come to the beach when she is suffering from her depression, it calms her. Here, the white cloth Sajeda wear, is the ‘urna’ scarf her mother gave her before she got on the boat as she was scared of how she was going to do such a journey with four children. Her mother said it would keep her safe. By the end of the trip it was black, but Sajeda considers it her lucky charm to this day. Asma is Sajeda’s oldest child and was 10 at the time of the boat journey, she still has nightmares about the event and struggles with depression given her uncertain future in Australia due to her visa status. “Sometimes I have dreams where there’s two boats, and one I’m alone myself, and the other is all my family members and we get separated. That big wave just come and separates us. And then I wake up and I start crying. And then I feel alone in the house, sometimes I believe the dreams are real and that I got separated. I think they come up because we’re uncertain now” Asma says.”

Horace Li The Journey Home documents people from Sydney’s Chinese community who were able to go home during the pandemic to celebrate the Chinese New Year, an auspicious time. Li bought “a siheyuan (a historical type of Chinese residence) backdrop to the studio and built a home symbolic for Chinese people. During Chinese New Year, I invited people from the Chinese community in Sydney to take a family portrait…there was homesickness, regrets, helplessness in the stories, but there was also warmth. This will eventually become how we remember the Year of the Ox.”

Annette Ruzicka One Last Look Before You Go is a series of self-portraits and self-reflective works that explores the artist’s “eco-anxiety at Australia’s environmental crisis followed by the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Alain Schroeder Grandma Divers from the South Korean island of Jeju.
In this picture, “Anja Son, 76 years old, comes from Myeonsu-dong village. She puts her gloves on and then her hood. She has been diving for 40 years, but has never encouraged any of her children to become free divers as it is a difficult and dangerous profession for little gain. In fact, like most Haenyeo, she must supplement her income with other work; predominantly farming. Jeju island, known for its characteristic basalt volcanic rock, sits off South Korea. It is the home of the renowned Haenyeo or women of the sea who free dive off the black shores of Jeju harvesting delicacies from the sea. Wearing thin rubber suits and old fashioned goggles, this aging group of women are celebrated as a national treasure and inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, but the tradition is slowly fading as fewer women choose this extremely hazardous profession. Today, the majority of Haenyeo are over the age of 50 and many are well over 70. In a society obsessed with education, the future of this physically arduous activity would appear bleak, and yet… Efforts by the government and local communities to preserve and promote this ecological and sustainable lifestyle have brought renewed interest from young people disillusioned with urban life and eager to return to their roots. It is perhaps a renaissance.”

Younes Mohammad Kurds open wounds. This is a long-term project that documents the sacrifices of Kurdish Peshmerga in the fight to destroy ISIS. Younes interviewed several hundred individuals and families and took portraits of the injured fighters capturing the ongoing trauma of post-conflict. In this picture, Weshyar Aziz Maghdid is with his family. “He was born in 1981 and he got wounded at Aug 2014 by an improvised explosive device (IED) and he lost left leg and left eye and both ears especially the left one as well as he got a lot of Shrapnel in his body. He has a 95% disability and he has three kids, Rayan 2011, Rozhin 2015 and Ahmad 2019. His wife Chenar Khalid Abdullah born 1987.”

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