Steam Punk Circus is a finalist at this years Head On Portrait Prize

Steam Punk Circus is a finalist at this years Head On Portrait Prize

It is with great pleasure I can announce that one of my group photographs inspired by Norman Lindsay's gorgeous fanciful work has been shortlisted and hung at this years Head On Portrait Prize. It has been selected out of a pool of over 5000 entries, and I must say I am pleased.

I can remember seeing earlier versions of this show, when it used to accompany the Archibald Portrait Prize and was held in the basement of the Art Gallery of NSW. I remember one year a portrait of Reg Mombasa took my breath away.  Another was one of Paul Kelly. Head On is an off shoot of this competition when it was found homeless. A rather disappointing decision at the art gallery. I have no idea of the politics at the time, but photography was probably not seen as one of the fine arts.  A bit like the year a drawing won the painting prize.

The Head On Photo Festival grows substantially each year.  Sydney comes alive with photography exhibitions, talks and workshops. There is so much on it is overwhelming to try and see every show.

This will be my forth time I have been apart of the Head On Photography Festival. The first was with Christine and a collaborative show we put on in 2011 called You + Me = LOVE at Ambo Ars in Newtown.  The second show was a collection of nudes I curated and exhibited in 2013 at the Mercure Hotel in Pots Point, this included my own personal work as well. ‘Naked Lens’ was an outstanding exhibition and was incredibly satisfying to curate.

The third exhibition was also a collaborative exhibition at Gallery 188 in Katoomba in 2016 called 3 + 1, where three photographers (Edmond, Chris and myself) exhibited works created with the same model, taken on the same day on the same photoshoot. This was the first exhibition that I printed my work at its intended size.

Steam Punk Circus was a collaboration. It wouldn’t have come together without the efforts of Emma, whom took up my idea of a group photograph in Adelaide. She ran with it, proposed an idea and managed to get all of these people together in themed costumes for an afternoon. It was my sixth large group portrait.  Each one becomes an intense learning experience, a journey of discovery in figuring out what works and what doesn’t.   

The first one was most of the entire town of Gulgong as part of its centenary celebrations. My biggest mistake was not managing the media, for the local press took a similar shot and sold if for ten dollars a print through the Mudgee newspaper. For all my efforts I sold three prints for a photograph with hundreds of people in it. One hangs in one of the many pubs, another was in a grocery store and the third was in Jules’ bookshop.

When I do these shoots we do three poses.  The first one is usually stiff, the second one people start to relax. Everyone rearranges for each. The third usually nails it.  Three, yes three. Six sheets of film (two shots of each of the poses).  Months of planning, days of preparing, experimenting, stillness for a few seconds and it’s over.

We created Steam Punk Circus in a pub, the backdrop was how we found it.  Each person took on a character dressed and acted thier part.  

An amazing experience that I am so thankful for all of those that helped make it.  Not something that can be done alone. Collaborations are amazing.

Steam Punk Circus. Photograph copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018


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