Bringing photography to the streets | ourballarat spring 2023

Cementing Ballarat’s identity as Australia’s photography capital, the 10th edition of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale is a celebration of the many genres of the medium set against the city’s heritage backdrop.

A woman stands in a laneways holding a bright yellow umbrella

From portraits by Platon to Andy Warhol's original polaroids, Ballarat International Foto Biennale CEO Vanessa Gerrans says the festival is “bringing photography to the streets” in more ways than one.

Aside from the huge photographs pasted across building facades and laneways throughout the CBD, the accessibility of the festival for “photographers to photography die-hards" is important to Vanessa.

“We’re looking at it as a layered festival. It’s like a photographic symphony with so many genres to connect with,” she says.

“We’re also trying to find different points of accessibility through experiences – you don’t solely need to be a viewer of photography, because there will be a range of hands-on workshops and an interactive studio space for photo opportunities.”

Putting Ballarat on the international stage

The City of Ballarat is a proud partner of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, which will run until 22 October.

The festival draws thousands of visitors to be part of immersive experiences and exhibitions across the city, delivering significant economic impact to businesses and to the city, and profiling Ballarat at an international level.

This year, the Biennale features more than 150 artists from across the globe and is headlined by “international superstar” photographer Platon.

Vanessa and her team worked directly with Platon to bring the world-first portrait exhibition, titled People Power – Platon, to life. The collection features memorable portraits of people who have shaped the world, from Madeleine Albright and Serena Williams, to iconic pop star Prince.

“Platon is a natural-born storyteller, a creative at heart.

When he takes a portrait, it's not just about the technical aspects; it's about that incredible connection he establishes,” Vanessa says.

Platon’s powerful portraits

Platon’s photographs are powerful,iconic, and raw. 

His talent in portraiture has taken him on a remarkable journey; from being featured in the UK street press and British Vogue, to working with John F. Kennedy Jr. for George magazine, and shooting covers for GQ, the New Yorker, and more than twenty covers for Time Magazine. 

Not only is Platon an accomplished photographer, but he also serves on the Global Leadership Council for the World Economic Forum. 

In 2007, he photographed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Time Person of the Year. Furthermore, his photographic essays on undocumented migrants, the military, and defenders of human rights have sparked real change in society.

“Through Platon's lens, we come to realise that a photograph can be much more than a visual representation. It can serve as a catalyst for change, shining a light on the issues that demand our attention and urging us to play an active role in shaping our culture and our world,” Vanessa says.

Like never before

Platon is not the festival’s only coup. 

A collection of Andy Warhol’s polaroids is on display, along with work from New Delhi-based Vineet Vohra – recognised as the most highly-acclaimed street photographer of his generation. 

Several of Vohra’s photographs are staged at scale outdoors across Ballarat.

“In our 24/7 world of digital algorithms and everyone using their phones, nothing compares to standing in front of a photograph that someone has carefully printed and thoughtfully managed in terms of presentation and scale,” Vanessa says.

“It’s also the vibrancy that comes from bringing everyone together in one place to celebrate the photography medium – being surrounded by images and ideas, it's visceral.”

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale is running from 26 August to 22 October across several Ballarat locations. 

It is a ticketed event with single and three-day tickets available, along with season passes and group tickets.