Head On photo festival launches petition as funding threatens future

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Sydney's Head On festival, one of Australia's largest photography events, has launched a petition to Creative Australia (formerly Australia Council for the Arts) in a desperate plea for funding.

According to Head On, despite reaching more than 450,000 people at Bondi Beach, Paddington Reservoir Gardens, TAFE NSW Ultimo and dozens of other venues this year, the festival has shed staff and will have no choice but to shrink future events without more funding. 

Festival Director Moshe Rosenzveig OAM revealed that despite being a mainstay of the Australian photographic community for more than a decade, the organisation has never received funding from Creative Australia, with him learning last week an application for $100,000 in federal government funding had been knocked back.

Head On Festival Director Moshe Rosenzveig OAM. Image: Tim Levy
Head On Festival Director Moshe Rosenzveig OAM. Image: Tim Levy

“I can be stoic and say ‘well, that’s life’, but the reality is it’s very difficult and getting more difficult,” he told the Canberra Times.

“It all leaves Head On with more financial support from foreign countries than it receives from the Australian government.”

This year, photographs by more than 700 artists from 30 countries were on show, with more than half by NSW photographers. Outside of Sydney, the festival is highly regarded internationally, and has partnerships with festivals and organisations in Europe, North America, Asia, UK, China, and New Zealand.

According to Rosenzveig, the festival runs on a budget of about $500,000, with about half of that coming from government funding and half from photo sales and entry fees. Despite this, it's only about half what the event needs to be sustainable. 

According to the AAP, the festival received $140,000 from Create NSW this year, and just under $90,000 over the past two years.

The Head On Foundation launched its petition last week.

"We, the signatories of this petition, wish to draw attention to our shared concerns over the persistent shortfall in funding and the consequent downscaling of the Head On Foundation and Head On Photo Festival, a cornerstone organisation that plays a vital role in enriching our community's cultural and creative life.

We need your support now more than ever before!" it states.

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