With strict COVID protocols in place, Ballarat International Foto Biennale artistic director Fiona Sweet is hopeful the 60-day event will kick off as planned next month at dozens of venues across the city.
To reduce pressure on restricted venue capacities, this year there will be more outdoor photographic exhibitions than ever before and more participants in the open program which sees exhibitions installed in restaurants, cafes, bars, retail outlets and other non-gallery venues.
With the expanded program and COVID protocol comes the need for more volunteers to help make the event a success when it opens on August 28.
"We need about 200 volunteers," Ms Sweet said. "With COVID of course there's a lot more processes involved in terms of everyone understanding what we have to do. We've always been very successful with our volunteers but this year we need a few more."
Volunteer roles range from helping set up exhibitions to food and drink service at events and 'invigilating' or supervising exhibitions during opening hours.
The BIFB consists of a core program of works from domestic and international artists previously unseen in Australia, an open program fostering new artists, as well as public and education programs.
"The Biennale is bringing art to Ballarat and while our passports sit in the drawer, this year's event is a great way to bring new experiences into your life and be immersed in the world of photography for a short time," she said..
Ms Sweet said the two COVID outbreaks this year had made it "tricky" to put on the event but the show would go on.
About half a dozen Sydney photographers will send their works down instead of setting up their own exhibitions, and printing of some elements has been slowed because printers have not been able to work or have had to reduce staff levels to comply with density requirements.
"Lots of things are causing us to be slower but this is my third festival now so I don't get too panicked or too worried, we just keep on going.
"Every single time we do one thing in a festival during COVID there are 20 more steps you have to consider - you just have to think on your feet and be really agile."
Ms Sweet said there was a record number of photographers keen to be involved in this year's BIFB because photographers, like everyone in the arts industry, had such a terrible year last year.
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In response she has asked venues hosting exhibitions as part of the open program to consider allowing exhibitions to be installed earlier and stay longer than the BIFB dates.
"We just have to make sure we've got all our risks cover and enough of a digital program so that if the audience can't come to Ballarat they can still take part, but the experience is never the same online ... we just hope now we've had this lockdown we might be ok."
An online information session for volunteers will be held via Zoom at 6pm on Wednesday July 28. Register online at ballaratfoto.org/volunteer-meeting
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