Photo by Amal Tofiali
Head On Photo Awards – a celebration of photography
Meet Moshe Rosenzveig: an intense, talkative person who believes in the power of the photo to challenge the world, introduce ideas and make conversation through visual storytelling. Each year his small, creative and hard-working team works day and night on a shoestring budget to deliver a massive festival.
Moshe worked as a TV producer, a university lecturer and a photographer himself for many years before taking on the mammoth task of putting on a world leading photo festival here in Sydney, for which he received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) earlier this year.
Moshe first created the Head On Portrait Prize 14 years ago, out of his own front living room. He wanted to tell a different story than the more conventional photographic portraiture exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which complemented the Archibald Portrait Prize, and like the ‘Archies’, focused on celebrity.
As a more adventurous photographer and creator, passionate about ideas, he wasn’t interested in the obsession with the rich and famous. His vision was to bring images of ordinary people into the streets of Sydney and introduce school kids to new horizons.
Over the years, The Portrait Prize grew bigger and morphed into the Head On Photo Festival, An internationally acclaimed festival of exhibitions, events and seminars on diverse themes inspired by the images.
For two weeks each May, the Festival transforms Sydney into a huge gallery. It has grown in stature and reputation, attracting thousands of visitors from all over Australia and the world. Its success was not simply due to the quality and variety of the work, but due to the new energy and the vision that it brought to the photographic community of professionals and hobbyists, artists and commercial photographers.
The Head On Portrait Prize remains at the centre of the festival. World-renowned photographers and curators select the photographic portraits without knowing the identity of the photographer; the work is judged purely on its quality.
I asked Moshe Rosenzveig OAM how he defines a portrait, and what makes a good one:
“The question for me over the past 14 years has been how we look at images that are intended to represent the essence of a person.
“Over the years, I have had many meaningful conversations with leading photographers, curators, picture editors and others interested in photography about their definition of a portrait and the definition of photography.
“Generally, I look for images that convey the essence of a person through emotional engagement with the subject.”
Complementing the Portrait category are the Landscape Prize, exhibiting surprising perspectives of our environment; the Mobile Prize that celebrates smartphone photography with amazingly creative images; and the Student Prize, which exposes the vibrant talents of our next generation artists.
Head On launches on Friday 3rd May and runs until 19th May 2019
This article originally appeared in Urban Village Autumn Edition 2019