Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2017

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Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2017

Raising the bar yet again for regional art in Victoria, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale is set to commence on August 19. Following the success of the Archibald Prize in 2016, Ballarat are backing up their arts prowess with over 100 different local and international artists cleverly selected by creative director Fiona Sweet.

We had a chat with Fiona and discovered her motives behind weaving the intricate artistic threads together for the only event of its kind in Australia. She has managed to lure David LaChapelle to Australia to exhibit for the first time, and organised a fringe review program on offer to the public.

Fiona has had an illustrious career in the photography world, recently curating the 2015 Acland Street Projection Festival and judging past Biennales worldwide, not to mention being the recipient of many prestigious graphic design and photography awards. As the new creative director of the BIFB, she feels that regional Victoria and in particular Ballarat, is the perfect fit for a Biennale.

“A small town, a regional town, means that it’s not too big, people don’t get lost and can immerse themselves in the art form whilst enjoying the country town,” she says.

When asked about program highlights, obviously, David LaChappelle’s first solo exhibition in Australia, which will take place in the Art Gallery of Ballarat, is significant. Over 60 of his photographic images, spanning his career, will be featured for the photographer, the art lover, and the celebrity crazed fans to adore. LaChappelle’s early career in commercial photography has transitioned easily into creative photography, with pictures that have ventured from Rolling Stone to the cover of Vogue. They will now grace our very own backyard making a significant impact to the BIFB showcase.

“Lachapelle takes a very irreverent sort of stand when he looks at celebrities and celebrity voyeurism, and he uses his hyper realistic style to really I suppose, highlight social issues and political events,” Fiona explains.

Representing on a national level, a very exciting exhibition ‘Tell’ has been curated by emerging Indigenous curator, Jessica Clark. As part of the fringe program, this event is free to the public and features 17 Indigenous artists, including Destiny Deacon, Richard Maynard and Warwick Thornton. When asked what she loves about this exhibition Fiona says, “From a personal perspective I think indigenous photography in Australia and world-wide is saying something that’s very, very interesting and exciting for the rest of the world to engage with, about who they are and their history and their culture, but in a contemporary way.”

The Portfolio Review is a personal favourite of Fiona’s, with a small fee attached for adults or students, emerging photographers have the opportunity to gain feedback from International and National expert reviewers. Standard practice for most photography Biennales, Fiona feels this is so important for the public.

“It’s very rare that you can put your work in front of someone who can give you really good critical discussion,” she says. “This is an opportunity for international significant photographic, curators and directors Australia wide, to come and give up their time to look at people’s work.”

When & Where: Ballarat International Foto Biennale – August 19 – September 17

Note – Book your David LaChappelle tickets in advance. For more information go to

Written by Alex Forssman