Reportage Festival, Sydney (1)
A brief history of Reportage
It all started in a Sydney living room where like-minded photojournalists gathered together to show each other their new or not yet published photographs. Nine years on it has flourished into a festival, and in this particular year it is part of the Sydney Art and About festival (sponsored by the Sydney City council, promoted by the culturally conscious Lord Mayor, Clover Moore). So as it sits today, Reportage is a festival within a festival. The festival’s curator – Stephen Dupont – is both a photojournalist and one of the founding members of Reportage.
Giorgia Fiorio – Human Figure
Hosting part of the Reportage festivities is The Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) with an exhibition by Giorgia Fiorio entitled Human Figure. Fiorio works obsessively on decade-long journalistic yet thematic projects, and it is from these that works have been selected for this exhibition, to give us something of a mid-career retrospective. Fiorio, an Italian who had an early career as a pop star – in stark contrast to her decision to pursue a career behind the lens – did not personally attend the festival. Instead, the curator Stephen Dupont and colleagues Alasdair Foster, Ben Bohane and Jack Picone all came to discuss the photographs and the photographer behind them.
Dupont describes her work, exhibited here not much larger than postcard size, as personal conversations. Each of the four men standing here on this sunny Saturday morning know Fiorio both professionally and personally so it is not so much of a floor talk as rather an series of pesonal anecdotes and adulatory reflections. She appears to have charmed them, hinting to her success in gaining access to some of the most secluded communities of men while working on her project aptly titled Men.
Fiorio’s projects often span up to 10 years, in an obsessive pursuit that could be compared to an endurance piece by performance artist Chris Burden or that of the recently revived Mirslav Tichy. However, unlike the latter, Fiorio travels the world to complete her projects yet her images arguably tend to draw on the commonality of man rather than a celebration of its diversity.
Fiorio is described as meticulous in her planning and once a concept is born all energies are directed towards its finalisation. Ben Bohane worked with her in Vanuatu while she was shooting a series called The Gift, which looks at spirituality around the world. She was mid-way through this project when the attacks of September 11 occurred and, as Bohane discusses, it was natural for a photojournalist to be taken with stories surrounding Iraq and in particular the Muslim culture and religion. However, Fiorio stuck to her plans – her photographs from 2001 to 2003 are of Angkor Watt and the Ganges – she turns her back on the news cycle only taking assignments here and there if required and in doing so has gained credibility in the enormous field of photographers. If there is one thing that can be said about Fiorio is that time is a luxury and luxury is something that she can afford.
Following the intense discussion, and in true Aussie form, were rewarded with a sausage sizzle and a beer!