Discover the best photographic art with these must-see exhibitions at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

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Discover the best photographic art with these must-see exhibitions at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Sgt. Pepper's Press Launch, London, 1967

For lovers of photography - and in this day and age, who isn't - Ballarat is your Mecca until January with the stellar Ballarat Foto Biennale.

Ballarat, like all of Victoria’s regional cities, never fails to surprise with the depth and wonder of its artistic offerings. Yet, still, the 2021-2022 Ballarat International Foto Biennale seems next level.

With 14 separate photography exhibitions in their core indoor program alone, the Foto Biennale turns the regional Victorian city into a temporary cultural archive, boasting an artefact repository of global significance.

The key takeaways

  • Ballarat International Foto Biennale will be extended until 9 January 2022.
  • The indoor exhibitions are open Thursday to Sunday
  • Outdoor exhibitions, selected open program venues open Monday to Wednesday

Keep up with the latest in regional art and local events via our website.

With stunning imagery and artistic installations spanning bushfires to The Beatles and everything in between, there is far too much to take in for a single article.

In addition to their core program, there’s another 18 core outdoor exhibitions and a mammoth open program with more than 100 exhibits. Our advice is you’ll seriously have to make the roadtrip to Ballarat to see for yourself. However, if you can’t, there’s even a digital program of interactive virtual exhibitions, prize exhibition galleries and more.

So with enough photos to shake a selfie stick at, what should you be most excited for? We’re glad you asked.

Linda McCartney: Retrospective

This is the exhibit that’s been gaining the most traction and heading all the Foto Biennale’s marketing so far but we can’t blame them, we’re leading it with it as well because…well, we’re a music website and our love for The Beatles goes way back.

Linda McCartney: Retrospective is a stunning and intimate exhibition of one of the great music photographers of her time. It’s made all the more poignant by the fact it’s curated by Paul McCartney himself, along with he and Linda’s children, Mary and Stella McCartney. Linda died in 1998 of breast cancer, and this retrospective of her photography features more than 200 extraordinary photographs, including images of the McCartney family, the 1960s music scene, and a series of prints from the McCartney’s time to Australia between 1975 and 1993 which have never been shown before.


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Steven Arnold: Notes from a Queer Mystic

Steven Arnold (1943 – 1994) was a quintessential icon ahead of his time – a revolutionary figure whose ideas and legacy have become strongly relevant in the cultural conversation of today. Pioneering artist and protégé of Salvador Dali, Arnold seamlessly weaved portals into the world of glamour, camp, celebrity and creativity, enchanting viewers through his enigmatic images.

Capturing the mystical spirit, exquisite sensitivity and revolutionary essence of the artist, Steven Arnold’s images portray creatures of beauty and elegance, intricacy and identity. Demonstrating his Surrealist eye for detail, intricate tableau vivants were created with painting, drawing, set design, costume, makeup and casting in a single photograph – transforming subjects into ethereal, androgynous and mystical figures.

A trailblazer within the queer community, Arnold continues to influence artists around the world years after his untimely death from complications due to AIDS. From The Steven Arnold Museum and Archives, each photograph is infused with Arnold’s interest in filmmaking, sexuality, spirituality and gender, which forged new ideas surrounding gender fluidity, non-binary consciousness and radical acceptance.


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Number One | Gudinski

We’ll sneak in one more music-related exhibit; the sensational Australian exclusive showcase of the godfather of Australian music, industry powerhouse Michael Gudinski.

Through an Open Call, music photographers were given the opportunity to submit photographs featuring artists under the Mushroom Group and Frontier Touring banner. Number One | Gudinski is an ode to Michael Gudinski, whose passion for music was legendary. This exhibition celebrates his advocacy for the arts and lasting impact, featuring photographs of Elton John, Paul McCartney, Vance Joy, Courtney Barnett, Troye Sivan and many more.


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Raining Embers

Featuring Aletheia Casey (AUS), Gideon Mendel (ZAF), Ruth Maddison (AUS) and Rachel Mounsey (AUS), these photographers take the viewer on a nightmarish quest through the 2020 Australian bushfires.

It’s compelling and stark portrayal of how the climate catastrophe is now wreaking havoc on one of the world’s most reluctant nations to face the facts.

Raining Embers is a must-see for all Australians, particularly those who may only experience the destruction of bushfires through their television screens. It will, however, have special reverence for regional Victorians.


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Aïda Muluneh: The World is 9

One of the Biennale’s outdoor program highlights, this is an Australian premiere of Ethiopian photographer Aïda Muluneh. She uses the vibrant colours we associate with African art to create startling photography, which is sure to wow and delight the senses.

More importantly, perhaps, it will also inform: she dives into Ethiopian culture through the colour arrangements, down into the nation’s religious and natural settings, using elaborate body paint as a celebration of traditional Ethiopian art.

Through The World is 9, Muluneh examines questions about life, love and history, and whether it is possible to live in this world with full contentment. Her photography has been heralded as a rejection of African artistic stereotypes as “primitive” by a traditionally Eurocentric view – this exhibition achieves that and much, much more.


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To explore the full program in all its wonder, head to the Foto Biennale’s website here. Also, we highly recommend following them on Instagram, for obvious reasons.