April 20, 2011: The 2011 Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB), to be held August 20 – September 18, is easily Australia’s largest and most ambitious photography event.
It runs over 30 days from August 20 to September 18, with core venues hosting some 22 different shows. There will also be four different fringe ‘circuits’ featuring numerous independently organised photographic shows (the Ballarat CBD circuit alone will offer 35 different locations).
A brief history
Inspired by France’s famous Les Recontres D’Arles photographic festival, festival director Jeff Moorfoot and a small but dedicated group of volunteers pulled together a photography event of their own in the Victorian regional centre of Daylesford. In June of 2005 the inaugural Daylesford Foto Biennale kicked off with 35 events at 28 venues around Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
In 2007 the Daylesford Foto Biennale expanded dramatically both geographically and in scope. That year there were 128 events held at 35 venues at Daylesford and surrounding towns. Then, for the 2009 festival, the Biennale moved down the road to its current home in the City of Ballarat. And, once again, it proved to be a resounding success.
With 22 different events in the core program alone, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to take in the whole festival in less than several days. Happily the core program venues are all within about a five minute walk of one another. And, equally happily, all exhibitions are free.
There’s an excellent fast train service from Melbourne, so you could easily duck out to Ballarat several times during the Biennale month. Naturally as a major regional centre, Ballarat offers the full specturm of accomodation options too. (If you plan to stay in Ballarat, Jeff Moorfoot advises that you check the BIFB website at http://www.ballaratfoto.org to see the specials on offer from the festival accommodation partners.)
As with the previous Biennales, the program is not simply confined to rooms with pictures hanging on walls. On the opening weekend, for instance, there will be an opportunity for serious photographers to put their portfolios in front of the experts.
The Portfolio review process costs $220 and is limited to the first 40 participants to apply. The process takes place over two days and each participant will be able to choose eight experts from a panel of 20 gallery directors, curators and international photographers to look over and critically assess their work.
‘It’s a fantastic way to see a lot of important people in a short space of time,’ said Jeff Moorfoot.
There will also be a variety of photographic workshops on offer, including a series of inexpensive one-day sessions across each weekend of BIFB ’11. There will be other events to choose from, including a camera market run by the Australian Photographic Collectors Society on Sunday September 13 (check apcs.asn.au for details) and a large format photography weekend with Richard White and Trevor Foon.
According to Jeff Moorfoot, BIFB ’09 attracted some 46,000 visitors to the core venues alone. This time around he and the organising committee have their sights set on at least a 10 percent increase over those numbers.
– Don Norris,
editor, Photo Review