Head On Photo Festival

Head On Photo Festival exposes New Zealand men

April 22, 2016 by Keren Cook

This year’s Head on Photo Festival showcases the work of New Zealand photographer Ilan Wittenberg – a new collection of monochrome images of bare-chested New Zealand men.

IMG_0549-Edit-3The Sydney-based international photography exhibition offers a different skew from the standard approach. All work submitted to the festival is judged without the artists’ names or pedigrees so the proposals stand on their merit.

Head on Foundation (est.2008) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the work of photographers at all stages of career, encouraging excellence and innovation, making photography accessible to all and raising awareness of important issues through photography.

IMG_7261-Edit-3One of Wittenberg’s objectives in his ‘Bare Truth’ campaign was to counter-balance the portrayal of men as strong, physically and emotionally.

Bare Truth is a collection of portraits of New Zealand men who are humble, courageous and vulnerable. Their photographs expose and reveal who they really are. They look directly into the camera so there is always a highlight in their eyes.

Wittenberg says it’s all about challenging stereotypes and presenting his subjects in a way that allows the viewer to think and reflect on issues like strength, power and emotion. Stereotypical perceptions of strength and well-being can be problematic according to Wittenberg.

“Stereotype sometimes leads to dire outcomes when considering how poorly typical men treat health symptoms such as IMG_7701-Edit-2depression, stress and anxiety,” Wittenberg says.

Wittenberg’s photographs are created to drive awareness and to offer men the freedom to express their feelings and connect with their emotions. Wittenberg says: “ This fresh look at men is an eye-opening opportunity to see real people without the ‘shield’ of clothes. The project simply reminds us of how fragile we are.”

The combination of shooting in monochrome, using soft, directional light and utilising special post-processing technique allowed Wittenberg to enhance features of his ‘model’s so the images appear raw and crisp. His use of simple backgrounds allows the viewer to focus on the body language and facial expression of his subject.

Initially, Wittenberg asked only family and friends to participate, but after sometime expanded his portfolio and began approaching total strangers.

The photographer then focused on capturing a variety of ethnic groups, poses, age groups and body sizes. He says: “it’s the set of photos that makes the collection engaging.”

Exhibition details:

Ilan Wittenberg – Bare Truth
Head On Photo Festival – Associated Exhibition Where:
Gaffa gallery, 281 Clarence Street, Sydney
May 12 to 23, Mon-Fri 10am to 6pm, Sat 11am to 5pm Opening event: Thursday 12 May 6pm
Artist talk: Saturday 14 May 12pm

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