Artistic visions illuminate: Melbourne’s Queer PHOTO Festival breaks new ground

By Our Reporter
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FAFSWAG, Alteration - Photo by Will Hamilton-Coates // Pic supplied

Melbourne’s art scene is currently ablaze with the pioneering spirit of the Queer PHOTO exhibitions. This unprecedented event, unfolding across the vibrant streets and iconic venues of Melbourne’s west, marks a significant moment in the celebration of LGBTQIA+ visual arts. Spearheaded by Footscray Community Arts, in collaboration with Midsumma and PHOTO 2024, and supported by Creative Victoria’s Go West program, Queer PHOTO stands as a beacon of inclusivity and diversity.

The festival boasts an impressive lineup, including three world premieres and two Australian premieres, showcasing the talents of artists from Australia, the UK, and the USA. It is a vibrant testament to the power of art in fostering community and dialogue. By transforming public spaces into accessible galleries, Queer PHOTO ensures that the vibrant expressions of LGBTQIA+ artists receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

Daniel Santangeli, Artistic Director of Footscray Community Arts, emphasizes the festival’s role in re-centring Indigenous, Black identity, and People of Colour within queer culture. Through this act of re-enculturation, Queer PHOTO celebrates the artists who continue to mould LGBTQIA+ culture both locally and internationally.

Daniel Jack Lyons, Like a River – Photo by Will Hamilton-Coates // Pic supplied

Among the highlighted exhibitions is “Exquisite Corpse” by Salote Tawale, a world premiere that engages viewers with its immersive installation at the Roslyn Smorgon Gallery. Tawale’s exploration of her Australian-Fijian heritage through photography, sculpture, and video invites audiences into a world of reinvented artistry and cultural intersections.

“Marungka Tjalatjunu/Dipped in Black” presents a poignant narrative through the lens of filmmaker Matthew Thorne and Yankunytjatjara artist/dancer Derik Lynch. This collaborative project, awarded internationally, delves into themes of spiritual healing and identity, offering a compelling look at the journey back to one’s roots.

Lilah Benetti, Black and Blur – Photo by Matto Lucas // Pic supplied

Clifford Prince King’s “Orange Grove” and the accompanying documentary “Kiss of Life” provide a deeply personal glimpse into the celebration of queer Black joy through intimate portraiture, while Jake Elwes’ “The Zizi Show” intriguingly merges AI with drag performance, challenging gender norms and societal biases.

Lilah Benetti’s “Black & Blur” and Daniel Jack Lyons’ “Like A River” extend the festival’s narrative to encompass a wide array of experiences, from the mosaic of Black and Indigenous identities to the vibrant communities of the Amazon Rainforest. Meanwhile, the FAFSWAG collective’s “Alteration” exhibition embodies the resilience and richness of queer Polynesian stories, challenging colonial narratives and envisioning new futures.

Jake Elwes, The Zizi Show Photo by Matto Lucas // Pic supplied

PHOTO Australia’s initiative in launching this biennale has created a platform that not only showcases the critical issues of our times through the lens of photography but also invites public engagement with visual culture in innovative and thought-provoking ways.

Queer PHOTO’s dynamic fusion of art, culture, and activism across Melbourne’s west offers a vivid illustration of the diverse tapestry of human experience. It celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community’s resilience, creativity, and ongoing contributions to the cultural landscape, ensuring that these voices resonate in the public consciousness long after the exhibitions have concluded.


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