Foto festival kicks into gear for 2017

Anticipation: Creative director Fiona Sweet said the Ballarat Mining Exchange would host the biennale's first-ever indigenous photographic exhibition. Picture: Amber Wilson

Anticipation: Creative director Fiona Sweet said the Ballarat Mining Exchange would host the biennale's first-ever indigenous photographic exhibition. Picture: Amber Wilson

The theme for this year’s hotly-anticipated Ballarat International Foto Biennale has just been revealed.

Newly appointed creative director Fiona Sweet said the theme – Performance of Identity – was about identity, people, and the places they come from.

“Performance of Identity is about people and place and we’re looking at the role of identity in the visual narrative – who you are, where you come from, your beliefs, informing how you present and creative your own identity and how that identity relates to the world,” she said.

Ms Sweet said the theme would come to life more once the major international artists for the festival were revealed.

“Life in Ballarat can be just as compelling visually as it looks in Detroit or a remote Cambodian village,” she said.

We are living in an image-saturated world – it’s more prevalent than ever before and we are all hungrier for more. - Fiona Sweet, Ballarat International Foto Biennale creative director

“What engages us is the perspective. It’s human nature to look at other people and situations, especially with photography and we are living in an image-saturated world – it’s more prevalent than ever before and we are all hungrier for more.”

The full program for this year’s festival will be released in April, with glimpses and reveals unravelling from late January onwards.

Also just announced is a $15,000 cash award for the best portrait photography, with the Ballarat International Foto Biennale Martin Kantor Prize.

“It’s an acquisitive prize and is open only to Australian residents and it will be a portrait of a significant person. I’m really hoping that local photographers and local media artists apply,” Ms Sweet said.

Also revealed is that the biennale will host its first-ever indigenous photography exhibition in the Ballarat Mining Exchange.

But more than just attracting world-class photography to Ballarat during the festival, which runs August 19 to September 17, Ms Sweet said she hoped the event helped enrich the city both socially and economically.

She said a UNESCO report released in November showed arts biennales brought major benefits to small cities and towns and helped them become more “inclusive, safe and resilient”.

As part of this mission, the biennale will include 12 community engagement projects with organisations such as Pinarc, Berry Street, Federation University and the North Ballarat Rebels football team.

The biennale is now in its 12th year and seventh festival. To subscribe for updates, visit www.ballaratfoto.org