Getting creative amid COVID-19 restrictions, Head On Photo Festival has this year become Head On(line) Festival as they transition exhibitions and festival talks to a digital platform.

Running online from May 1-17, the festival boasts strong themes of Australia’s First Peoples throughout.

From featuring that photo of Vincent Lingiari and former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to art created with the healing plants of the Quandamooka Peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), read on to find out what’s happening at Head On(line) Festival.


Paper Tigers

An exhibition featuring the works of Australia’s contemporary photojournalists, Paper Tigers includes works from renowned Indigenous photographers Mervyn Bishop and Barbara McGrady, among others.

Barbara McGrady’s work featured in Paper Tigers. Photo supplied by Head On Photo Festival.

With 60 works from 60 Australian photojournalists, the exhibition was curated by Head On Festival Director, Moshe Rosenzveig OAM.

Paper Tigers includes Mervyn Bishop’s famous photo of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring sand into Vincent Lingiari’s hands as he returned Gurindji Country to the Traditional Owner in 1975 in recognition of the Wave Hill Walk Off of 1966.

Mervyn Bishop’s famed photo of Vincent Lingiari and Gough Whitlam. Photo supplied by Head On Photo Festival.

A panel discussion about Paper Tigers will also take place on Sunday May 3, including some of the featured photojournalists, and discuss the critical importance of photojournalism and its ability to capture important historical moments.


Breaking Silent Codes

Displaying black and white portraits of strong First Nations women who gathered to share experiences, award winning photographer Belinda Mason captures the true strength of the matriarch in Breaking Silent Codes.

The women gathered together in a forum facilitated by Goreng Goreng woman and family violence advocate, Aunty Dixie Link Gordon, to tell stories of the differing cultural responses to sexual assault, domestic and family violence in communities. They spoke of the silences which can be created within communities due to factors such as family, religion or authority figures.

Two portraits from Breaking Silent Codes. Photo supplied by Head On Photo Festival.

The forum resulted in a book authored by Link Gordon, with Mason’s photos.

A decorated human rights photographer, Mason has previously been invited to speak at significant conferences such as the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women in New York in 2016 and at the World Conference on Indigenous Persons in New York in 2014.

Mason and Link Gordon will be doing an artist talk on Wednesday May 6 to discuss the exhibition.



Exploring the degradation and commodification of the Murray Darling River, Paul Harmon’s exhibition, WaterMarks, shows the floodplains from above with a series of drone shots that capture the vast expanse of red dirt so commonly associated with the Australian outback.

One of the images in WaterMarks by Paul Harmon. Photo supplied by Head On Photo Festival.

Harmon said in his artist statement:

“I was originally attracted to this subject by the sheer beauty of the NSW outback from the air—where the drama of water in the landscape was palpable and even more so where the story of man’s dependence on it—both First Peoples and post-European settlers—are rendered in such strong hues. 

“However, I soon realised the tensions that existed where a superficial beauty from the air hides ugly truths of stolen lands, stolen water, inappropriate land use and environmental degradation.”

Although Harmon’s photos appear as aerial shots, they are actually composite images of up to 120 separate photos shot by drones at a 120-metre height.

Harmon will be doing an artist talk on WaterMarks on Saturday May 16.


Medicinal Plant Cycles

An explosive combination of science and art, Renata Buziak’s Medicinal Plant Cycles features artworks inspired by her recent PhD research on healing plants of the Quandamooka Peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island).

The process used in these vibrant images is one the Polish, Sydney-based artist has taken 20 years to perfect—the ‘biochrome’. Buziak fuses decaying plants with photographic materials to create images that reflect the natural life cycle of plants.

One of Burziak’s biochrome creations. Photo supplied by Head On Photo Festival.

The artist aims to reveal the “beauty in decomposition” and does so in these images of tea trees, healing and edible plants traditionally used for antiseptics and insect repellents

Buziak’s artist talk on Medicinal Plant Cycles takes place on Saturday May 9.


The Great Idea

This group exhibition sees eight Hellenic-descended Australian photographers explore the ways we process what we see. 

Photographer Tom Psomotragos took to rural Australia to capture the lives of First Nations people and the lasting effects colonisation has had and is still having.

Tom Psomotragos’ photos in The Great Idea. Photo supplied by Head On Photo Festival.

The black and white photos show pride as Traditional Owners live on Country, despite the political, cultural and personal dispossession that occurred as a result of colonisation.


To view the entire Head On(line) festival program including exhibitions, panels, artist talks and workshops, visit:

By Hannah Cross