GradFoto 2021 Exhibition

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale presents the GradFoto 2021 exhibition, featuring 20 finalists from nineteen universities. This award celebrates the artistic excellence of graduating students, open to emerging contemporary artists from selected Australian institutions whose artistic practice includes photography. Following its inaugural launch in 2020, GradFoto 2021 continues to showcase the high calibre of photographic work by up and coming graduates to new audiences across Australia and beyond. GradFoto is an annual award presented each year for graduating artists. For all enquiries, please email info@ballaratfoto.org


Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Director of Programs, Carriageworks
Alasdair Foster, Writer, Researcher & Curator
Sunyoung Kim, Curator, Museum of Photography Seoul
Talia Linz, Curator, Artspace Sydney
Pippa Milne, Senior Curator, Monash Gallery of Art
Talia Smith, Artist & Curator, Granville Centre Art Gallery
Madé Spencer-Castle, Independent Curator
Fiona Sweet, Artistic Director & CEO, Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2016-2021
David Wadelton, Artist

We extend a huge thank you to our judges for their generous time and energy throughout the judging process for the GradFoto 2021 award. Thank you to Charles Darwin University, Charles Sturt University, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, Federation University Australia, LCI Melbourne, Monash University, Murdoch University, National Art School, Oxygen College, Photography Studies College, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, TAFE New South Wales, University of New South Wales, University of Tasmania, University of Wollongong, VCA University of Melbourne and Whitehouse Institute of Design for participating in GradFoto 2021.

Award Winner – Meg De Young

Meg De Young, The Conversations We Have, 2021  

The GradFoto 2021 prize of $500 is awarded to graduate Meg De Young from RMIT University for their series The Conversations We Have.

The judges said, “There’s something wonderfully deadpan about this serious yet tender series of performed images by Meg De Young. The images are playful but also have a sense of underlying tension. There is a mixture of tenderness and distance, mimicry and truth, highlighting the complexity of the mother/daughter relationship. The images are absurdly compelling and the theory behind them is dark and tempting.”

People’s Choice – Sophie Smith

Sophie Smith, The Crow, 2021  

The People’s Choice Award, as voted by the public, is awarded to Sophie Smith, from RMIT University for her series The Crow.

GradFoto 2021 Finalists

Meg De Young [RMIT University] – WINNER

The Conversations We Have is a collaboration with my mother that explores how the mother/daughter relationship is a socially constructed idea. The work uses collaborative theatre as a way to destabilise patriarchal narratives related to mother-daughter intimacy, mother-blame, matrophobia (the fear of turning into one’s own mother), and motherhood as a social construct.
By subverting these narratives with our bodies in the domestic space, we explore the patriarchal construction of the mother-daughter relationship. Through this process of collaboration and performance, I critique and deconstruct these narratives to reclaim our relationship in its own image. Through practice led research I explore feminist perspectives on mother-daughter relationships. Specifically, I feel the research contributes to an underexplored field in photography and art. While the social construction of motherhood has been explored in contemporary art, the mother-daughter relationship is less explored. The aim of this work is to expose the narrative for what it truly is, an ideology. This is not the true experience of the mother-daughter relationship. The Conversations We Have is the process of beginning a dialogue between my mother and I, and the journey to rewriting our own narrative that truly reflects our lived experience.

Sophie Smith [RMIT University] – PEOPLE’S CHOICE

In the 1980s, a new subculture called the ‘crow tribe’ emerged in Japan that rejected the shoulder pad adorned, form-fitting looks of the time for all-black garments that enveloped and concealed the body. Designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake championed this aesthetic, thus the women who wore their monochromatic, androgynous garments were nicknamed ‘crows’.
In my series The Crow, I am dressed in pieces by said designers to become a ‘crow’ captured in the confines of her own nest due to the ongoing constraints of COVID-19. Self-portraiture provided me with complete, active control in portraying the crow character as I became both the object and subject of the series. Further, The Crow functions as an ode to imagination and the fantasy worlds or personas that I create in my head. The rebellious aesthetic of the crow tribe allowed women to escape into a utopia where there were no expectations or pressures to become the highly gendered, Western 80s woman. Similarly, fashion for me in The Crow acts as a form of body-sculpture and escapism against the reality of the world we are living in right now. My series The Crow ultimately explores the possibilities for artistic expression within the fashion photography medium to create a new self-representation.

Ali Choudhry [RMIT University]

Art allows us to relate to others, ourselves, and the world. I believe these relationships are truth and art is the means through which we understand truth. Photography, as an art practice is unique. With photography, it is mechanically impossible to photograph something which doesn’t physically exist. On a basic level, light has to bounce around, possibly off a real-world physical object and possibly through a lens, and hit some sort of digital sensor or chemical emulsion. Even an abstract photograph, such as one about truth, has to be of a physical real world object.
It is very easy for a photograph of something to be just an indexical photograph of that thing and nothing else. I can’t just go inward and take a photograph of what I’m thinking or feeling. The challenge is to create a photograph and have it be more about the photograph itself, rather than what the photograph is of.
In this instance, I have photographed ordinary, rather unremarkable, pieces of wood. They weren’t anything special; inert and dead detritus, something which was once alive but no more. But the photographs are no longer about what was photographed; instead, I hope that the photographs offer a space of beauty, quiet contemplation and a chance to engage with truth.

Teva Cosic [RMIT University]

Puno Puno, Lacu Noc (meaning lots and lots, goodnight) extended from a desire to reconnect to my Croatian heritage after the death of my grandmother in 2020. Through praxis, it seeks to complicate a reductive view of nostalgia and follows the assertion that longing for the past can be oriented towards both change and transformation in positive and productive ways.
Working with the photobook form, the project broadly explores how personal and collective narratives of migration, identity and belonging are entangled and embedded within nostalgia. From the perspective of a third-generation Croatian, the work speculates on where culture lies as it attempts to both locate a sense of connection whilst also reconciling feelings of my own displacement through the creative act. The photographic encounters, archival sources, and other visual investigations that make up the project become points on a map that constellate my own narratives with those of the broader Croatian community and aims to further contextualise intergenerational experiences of migration within the contemporary Australian landscape.

Mikayla De Pasquale [Deakin University]

Celestial Trace aims to explore the relationship between psychoanalytical theory of the mind and photographic apparatus and processes. The photographic work draws upon German philosopher Walter Benjamin who claimed that photography can reveal facets of seeing, that elude out unconscious perception.
The refined photographic processes in this body of work forms not only as a visual articulation that references the ideology of Benjamin’s notion of an ‘optical unconscious,’ but as an analysis and representation of three major topics; ‘time,’ ‘motion,’ and ‘perception.’ These topics are explored within the three processes Solargraphy, Lunargraphy, and Cyanonegative. The photographic work manifests as a collaboration with the rising and setting trajectories from the celestial bodies (i.e., the Sun and Moon), that ultimately helps to receive and register information that surpasses our pure perception.

Sevim Dogan Ozkan [RMIT University]

My Mother Tells Me (2021-) is an ongoing project that aims to explore the connection between past and present by engaging with notions of childhood, identity and memory. I’m now a mother, at the age my father was when he passed away, and I find I’m clinging onto my memories, urgently attempting to record, re-create and re-tell them. It comes from a place of fear – to not be forgotten. A plea to my children to understand some fragments of my childhood, although they are unable to relate to my birthplace, no photographs to browse, a grandfather they never met.
My first-ever photograph was taken at the age of eleven against the brick wall of my primary school. I don’t have a copy of this photograph. My story before then is my own narrative, built on what I think I remember. In order to tell the story, this project brings together archival and reconstructed images. The images I’ve created draw from my everyday life and experiences. They reflect on the tension between my longing for home and my developing sense of belonging in Australia. It is this in-between place that fuels the telling. The story is narrated by my eleven-year-old daughter Ada and told from her perspective. Through creating this work, I feel that I am a step closer to converting what is mine, to what is ours.

Jane Fitzgerald [Oxygen College]

There is something to be seen in the ordinary, that can often be overlooked. In this series, I wanted to highlight the beauty in the banal. To take a moment to look deeper. With the washed out colour, ordinariness turns into something sweetly appealing and eye-catching, in a subtle, unassuming way.
I want to convey the feeling of Ordinariness, and draw attention to the beauty in the overlooked. Ordinary can be comforting and soothing. Ordinary is commonplace, nothing special about it, nothing distinctive. Ordinary is not different or unexpected in any way. I want to convey a feeling of peace, serenity, soothing and comforting images in their ordinary simplicity. Ordinary is comforting… there is comfort in the ordinary… it can soothe. The colours and tones are flat and washed out, cleansed, to feel ordinary to the viewer. This series is of the ordinary, nothing to take your breath away, but still beautiful in their simplicity.

Finn Goldstraw [Monash University]

The series of images are all products of experimentation and development. The rationale of these works was to explore and play with the technical elements of the photography process. The individual works and series that I have chosen are all created through experimentation with printing and collage processes over photography prints. The poems are experiments with scanning as photography. All were completed within my bedroom using an inkjet home printer, photoshop and an analogue camera.
The ‘landscape’ duo and individual works use distressing, collage, and printing techniques to add texture and depth to each work. The ‘colour’ and ‘abstract’ series experiment with colour, texture, and contrast through the printing process. Both series explore printing repetition and enable me to investigate texture and colour throughout the different works. The ‘negative’ series plays with the idea of creating negative and positive images using photography shot with film. The collage of both the original and inverted images gives an insight into the analogue film process as well as how light and shadows are used to create each image. Generally, photography is seen as two-dimensional. I am interested in exploring the possibilities of the photograph as more than a two-dimensional image but rather a three-dimensional object.

Brittany Hefren [Charles Sturt University]

Listening to Lilacs
When the mind has become a messy tangle of self-made illusions, shadows of worry, self-doubt, and comparison, how does one find hope? Tired of the twisted perspectives of my own inner monologue, I looked up. I choose the practice of walking – slowly. Breathing in the outside air. Asking better questions. What wisdom can I gain from the trees? What song are the flowers singing? My imagination is like a rose bush – stunningly beautiful, a thing of poetry. Yet its thorns can catch me off guard if I become too enchanted with the rose and fail to take care. Luckily, all that is required to get the most out of a rose bush is a good pruning. One can remove the thorns once they take care to discover where they hide. Someone once told me there is almost always a breakdown before a breakthrough. There is nothing lost, nothing wasted. My past has become compost, creating the fertile ground my future is planted in.

Panayiotis Kasseris [RMIT University]

Being born and raised in a village on a small island in Greece gave me certain experiences that shaped my childhood. Migrating to Australia in 2012 when I was eighteen years old shook me and my understanding of everything, but most importantly the understanding of what is home.
This project’s title translates to I am looking for a homeland, I am looking into how I can use memories from my childhood and adulthood in a way to connect the two different Me’s. The Me growing up in Greece and the Me becoming an adult in Australia, through my relationship with the people that link those two worlds and especially my mother.

Richard Langley [University of Tasmania]

Elevations is a collection of discarded and appropriated objects. It is a documentary project, cataloguing the overlooked and abandoned objects of my everyday. Rather than seek the historical false neutrality of typological photography, Elevations uses assemblage to playfully resist the prior classifications and imposed understandings of the documented objects. The objects are brought back into consciousness through an expansion of possibilities.
Unfixed and impermanent, the assemblages are balanced, woven, stacked, and bent. As they wait for their next collapse, their documentation is a conservation project outlasting what it depicts. However, unlike the conservation photography of Ansel Adams, Elevations approaches the landscape through the objects taken from it and discarded to it, playing with the possibility of seeing something else.

Denise Lawry [Photography Studies College]

Unrestricted movement through the city is a basic human right. Traditionally, women have been prevented from this by the presence of ‘invisible barriers’, both physical and psychological. Cities are designed by men with little consideration for women and the unique difficulties and safety concerns that they may encounter as they negotiate urban space.
Vulture is a photographic investigation of women making their way through urban space, exploring the many restrictions to their progress. The work is shown through the eyes of a flâneuse, the female version of the iconic Parisian flâneur, who observed daily life on the streets of Paris. Originally planned as a colour street photography series, it evolved into the current monochrome, dark collection that predominantly depicts locations perceived as unsafe, relegating human presence to a minimum. The series is a response to the question as to whether gendered space can be reclaimed photographically. The title captures the brooding, shadowy menace of a predator inherent in certain locations.

Celeste Lloyd [Monash University]

Haptic Actions is a series of silver gelatin prints that present an experimental, process-driven exploration of perception between micro and macro. It is developed through the exchange of information between these two ways of seeing and focuses on material sensitivity, abstraction, and the deconstruction of darkroom processes.
When creating this series I developed further interest in the concept of photography’s spatial and sculptural qualities as I worked with acetate sheets to create collaged photograms. As I would move the pieces between the negative holder in the enlarger, to directly sit on the paper, held somewhere between the two, or discarded to the side, the process quickly became undeniably physical. Placing cut acetate strips in the enlarger made visible previously unseen information like a microscopic study as I experimented with extending traditional darkroom practices.

Daniel Longo [RMIT University]

SCENES OF CASTRATIONS & GAZES UPON CONTROL seeks to represent the abject in material forms using fragmented forms of the body. Through a practice-led and material thinking approach, I seek to represent and give a material form to the abject. I am concerned with the study of experience from the perspective of the individual. More specifically, I intend to explore the abject self in a state of abjection and then create fragmented forms of body. In this project, the body becomes a symbolic and aesthetic expression of the abject. Driven by personal experience and acknowledging my desire to be castrated, the abject self in a state of abjection is the core driving force behind creative nuances and materiality.
This project uses photography and digital manipulation for all final outcomes. The materialism involved in depicting the ‘realism of the body, entails recognising that the body is not an external static representation’ (Cokal, 2000 p. 123) but is susceptible to ‘breakdown, fragmentation, and dissolution’ (Cokal, 2000 p. 124). Consequently, the fragmented body is a way to explore questions of abjection and the self.

Meredith Marshallsea [Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne]

My art practice uses photography to create ambiguous forms by capturing the human body moving through an interior space. I am interested in the temporal areas this blurring creates and how they can provoke a presence and absence within the image. To further explore and heighten these images’ mysterious nature, they are physically placed in a liminal space by either projection or held by a hand. This process investigates the in-between spaces and the narratives these spaces evoke when strange/mysterious images create portals to other worlds. By combining these elements, I explore how a liminal space transforms into a realm that evokes a weird and eerie quality.

Jack McLain [RMIT University]

I began my Masters of Photography at RMIT in early 2020, and, two weeks after I moved from Sydney to Melbourne, the world ended. We moved forward. We moved backward. The planet kept rotating. People adjusted. Or they didn’t. In between breaks of isolation, I practiced wet plate collodion tintype portraiture. While our interactions moved toward the virtual, both photographically and socially, the human need for lasting interactions became more clear. In response, I wanted to make one-of-a-kind images of depth using old technologies and photographic processes. These tintypes are created as bespoke objects using lenses from the late 1800s and a process from the 1850s. Using old eyes for a new look at the bygone era of today.

Panisa Ongwat [Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne]

Through my practice I look to preserve fleeting moments, elevating intimate glimpses of the mundane into carefully considered photographic documents. I work with analogue photography and the darkroom, and the unpredictable nature of the film medium resists instant curation and processing. Each scene is uniquely highlighted, appreciated as a suspended moment. I find myself searching for depth and affection in the ordinary, seen through the cultural lens of a Thai-born artist who continually moves between countries. The under-represented beauty of everyday moments inspires me to document, as a quiet spectator, these brief encounters. Through the use of vibrant colours, I create a warm ambience for the unknown that remains constant with the passing memory.

Ruiqi Qiu [RMIT University]

Warrior Tattoo aims to honor the female identity and to respect possibilities of gender, in order to oppose the discrimination and limitation supported by patriarchy. It also combines the tattooing technique, an ancient method of conveying spirit and belief. I chose to tattoo female organs (womb, vulva and breasts) with the dark color on an Asian woman’s portrait which implies my race and female identity. The portrait is not a perfect and accurate photograph because I am sick of the many requirements that demanded women to be the right and appropriate woman who is defined by others. Meanwhile, the damage made by a needle on the surfaces of photos reminds viewers that gender issues are happening and keep making an impact in the real world.
In addition, I have designed different patterns to represent the female organs in different conditions. It appeals to women to consider the differences of cultural backgrounds or physical body situations between each other. A pattern describes a kind of life of a woman. A series of patterns depict many different types of lives of female communities, showing the possibilities of a woman’s life wherever she comes from. I attempt to connect women from different races and cultural backgrounds, and encourage them to reflect on their female experiences and seek things in common from other females’ lives. Women are sharing the destinies structured by patriarchy. Meanwhile, women also share their courage while living in an unfair world and striving to improve inclusivity in societies. Women do have not only sisterhood but also warriorhood.

Masoumeh Sadeghi [University of Wollongong]

The imitative process of making photographs out of photographs is exciting, and I lose track of time every time. Moving through layers one by one as something new yet familiar starts to emerge. My work is simply an exploration of self and, at the same time, an appreciation of what I have or encounter. I take advantage of my surroundings. When I spend a long time in any place, I absorb the environment. That includes people too. With a camera in my hand, my view and perception of what I look at change unconsciously. Time is a strange concept. I watch mother at the clothesline; the next moment, I wonder how old the trees behind my house must be. Sometimes I feel lost or out of place. Does every human have a purpose? I don’t know what mine is yet; perhaps I’m already on the path. As time passes, I trust my photographs will reveal the answer.

Tatiana Yakou [Whitehouse Institute of Design]

Phantasmagorical is an editorial that explores the cultural movement of surrealism, which was known for the juxtaposition of distant realities to activate the unconscious mind through imagery. Inspired by the surrealist artists Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, as well as Photographer Tommy Ingberg, and their way of creating bizarre imagery, this editorial is a summer issue showcasing my take on the cultural movement by creating four multiverses using my favourite fruits and vegetables. Each universe explored has its own story to tell and is open to interpretation to viewers and how they choose to apply the images to their everyday lives and experiences. Moreover, this project celebrates the creative industry through its use of mixed media such as photography, illustration, and collage, in combination with scale and anomaly, bringing to life a sense of humor that is absent from reality.