Hanging Martin Kantor … What a Difference a Week Makes …

When I first saw images of the initial hanging of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale’s inaugural Martin Kantor Portrait Prize – including my finalist image of Noel Pearson – I was both in a state of shock and devastated.

How could they have got it so wrong …

The framed and mounted works that each individual finalist (all twenty seven of them) had spent considerable time and money on producing for the high profile show, were strewn around tawdry industrial wire fencing, hung back to back with other works of different sizes and not referenced in any cohesive fashion at all. It all looked … as photojournalism journalist Alison Stieven-Taylor wrote … “like amateur hour”. It was, indeed,  awful …

I penned messages explaining my concerns and opinions to several of the accomplished fellow finalists I knew … and they unanimously agreed. From there we decided to collectively bring our concerns to the BIFB hierarchy. I managed to find contact details for most of the Martin Kantor finalists and penned a lengthy letter (with the fine sub-editing skills of Tony Kearney) outlining our total disappointment with the hanging of our work. That letter was emailed to BIFB on Friday morning signed by 18 of the total of 27 finalists.

Credit, as they say … credit where credit is due. By Friday afternoon BIFB Festival and Creative Director Fiona Sweet delivered an apology to all of us, agreed with our concerns and promised to correct the situation. Using a new design of a hastily contacted architect (Moloney Architects) the exhibition was totally transformed and rehung … and reopened on Tuesday morning just over three days after the delivery of our collective email. The exhibition now looks worthy of the wonderful portraits of prominent Australians produced by Australia’s most accomplished photographic portraitists. Much Thanks for putting it all to rights BIFB.

Below … at top …  (Thanks to Alison Stieven-Taylor ©) … my Martin Kantor finalist work ‘Noel Pearson’ as initially hung in Ballarat Town Hall … and below … the revamped exhibition as it was reopened on Tuesday morning (courtesy BIFB ©) with my ‘Noel Pearson’ portrait now far left.

Martin Kantor Portrait Prize - exhibition rehang - Ballarat International Foto Biennale - Brian Cassey

Martin Kantor Portrait Prize - exhibition rehang - Ballarat International Foto Biennale - Brian Cassey

Finalist in Martin Kantor Ballarat Tribute …

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale has been a fixture for Australian and International photographers and their audiences since 2005 … and the festival prides itself on “immersing the historic township in photographic art”. The 2017 program is expected to attract over 50,000 visitors during the month long festival from mid August.

This year they have also introduced an important new exhibit … the inaugural Ballarat International Foto Biennale Martin Kantor Prize … and I’m somewhat stoked to have been selected as one of the twenty eight Finalists.

The rationale of the prize is to recognise “portraiture of significant Australians” … and perhaps they don’t come much more ‘significant’ than my Finalist subject … Noel Pearson. I made the image of Noel whilst he was mesmerising an audience during one of his oratory triumphs at an indigenous convention in Port Douglas. The light was extremely low and the framing of the image was made ‘in camera’. (Image below)

I’m joined in the finalist selection but some of Australia’s very best photographic portraitists including George Fetting, Tamara Dean, Rod McNicol, Tobias Titz, Tony KearneyDavid Darcy  … and the prize is a fitting tribute to the late Martin Kantor. a photographer and philanthropist who was known for his arresting portraits of famous musicians and artists.

The Martin Kantor Prize exhibition runs for the length of the festival … 19th August to 17th September … at Ballarat Town Hall. The overall winner of the the $15,000 acquisitive prize will be announced at 2pm on the 20th August. Sadly I doubt if I will be able to get there to see it.

Image of Noel Pearson © Brian Cassey

Ballarat International Foto Biennale Martin Kantor Prize - 'Noel Pearson' - by BRIAN CASSEY