Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 26 November 2021

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – there’s lots going on in the world of photography right now. This week the winners of the Head On Photo Awards, the shortlist for the 2021 Australian Photography Awards are announced, Photo Collective launches its new magazine and we say adieu to legendary photojournalist Tom Stoddart who passed away on 17 November. But first, Jennifer Blau’s beautiful photo essay dealing with the difficult subject of dementia.

Patricia’s Room – Jennifer Blau

(C) Jennifer Blau

Dementia, loss of memory, loss of self, these are complex themes to convey visually and in a way that does not devolve into sentimentality or cliche. Sydney photographer and art therapist Jennifer Blau has mastered the art of talking about age and ageing, her exploration of women turning 50, The 50 Book:Women Celebrate Life evidence of her thoughtful approach, that allows the individual to shine.

In her latest project, Patricia’s Room, Blau’s subject is her mother-in-law who at the age of 90 began to show signs of dementia after an illness. This series is on show on the Bondi Beach Promenade as part of Head On Photo Festival, which ends Sunday 28 November.

Blau explains her approach to this story: “I wanted to convey Patricia’s experience with an empathetic eye and to shed light on a subject laden with stigma.”

“Patricia was glamorous, active and engaged until a sudden heart operation triggered confusion and memory loss. She soon became isolated in her home. As conversation became difficult, photography became a wonderful way for me to spend time with her.”

What I like about this series is the way Blau has created images that use artefacts from Patricia’s life, like the one below where she is holding a picture of herself aged 34.

(C) Jennifer Blau

Then there are the layered images. To me these multiple exposures signify Patricia’s passage through this moment in her life, an ethereal movement conveyed in a gossamer whisper. This gentle approach invites us to view these images through soft, compassionate eyes.

(C) Jennifer Blau
(C) Jennifer Blau

Blau says that she “tried to see the world through (Patricia’s) eyes and examine this state of transition in her life. Having a close relationship allowed me a unique opportunity to witness and share her beauty and humanity in various states of being.”

It is the artist’s hope that through these intimate portraits, the stigma of dementia will be challenged, inviting “us to consider how we often dismiss older people  – particularly at a time when they are at their most fragile.”

(C) Jennifer Blau

New Australian Photography Magazine

Photo Collective Magazine 001 – this new 100 page printed, yes printed, magazine is being released as a limited edition by Melbourne’s Photo Collective (200 copies). The magazine comprises projects by Australian photographers, as well as “essays and in-depth conversations exploring photography, photobook production and design.” I’m thrilled to have my conversation with Matthew Newton feature in the first edition. Get your copy now and support this great initiative.

Vale Tom Stoddart

I met Tom at Visa Pour L’Image a few years back at a Getty event. He was such a generous and insightful man, and I greatly enjoyed our discussions. It is with great sadness that I acknowledge his passing at the age of 67. The Washington Post described Tom as a “globetrotting” photojournalist and he was. Over his career he covered conflicts around the world and their aftermath.

Rather than words, this documentary by Neale James uploaded to Vimeo in 2015 is a fitting tribute.

“Tom Stoddart is one of the world’s most respected photojournalists. In this short film about the documentary makers, Tom discusses his style of work, his thoughts and relationship with photography today and how he started on the road to becoming one of photography’s most celebrated photographic story tellers.” 2015

Winners:

Head On Photo Awards

Gideon Mendel – Portrait Prize

Winner of the Head On Portrait Prize 2021 is South African photographer Gideon Mendel, who is known for his work documenting the affects of apartheid, AIDS and climate change. The winning photo is of sculptor Jenni Bruce at her burnt home in Upper Brogo, New South Wales, and was taken in January 2020.

One of the highlights of the awards night was Mendel’s acceptance speech where he called out Scott Morrison and his government for failing to act on climate change. Priceless.

Aletheia Casey – Landscape Award

Australian photographer Aletheia Casey was in London when the fires ripped through the country. She says, “This work is a personal reaction to the Australian fires of 2019/2020, which almost destroyed my family home. As I watched the fires from London, feeling powerless to help family and friends, I painted on prints from my last time in Australia with oils and inks. I reworked them in an attempt to implant my fear and powerlessness into the imagery.”

Chege Mbuthi – Student Award

Melbourne-based photographer Chege Mbuthi took this picture during the city’s lockdown in 2020. “As I found myself with more spare time, I began to experiment further with my portrait photography. I took the shot at the front of my home, which has beautiful soft light filtered through one window, which fell upon my silhouette. The simplicity of the image, combined with the minimal colour, created an aesthetically pleasing image.”

Shortlist:

Australian Photography Awards 2021

It’s an impressive shortlist for this year’s awards with category winners announced via the Awards’ social media and website each day from November 29th to December 3rd. Check out the full list here. You can also pre-order the Awards Annual.

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