It includes live-streaming artist talks, panels, discussions, workshops for photographers, and over 100 virtual exhibits featuring photographers from around the world as well as Australian photographers.

The festival, founded in 2008, celebrates photographic documentary, a type of photography that is typically associated with photojournalism, as well as other types of reporting. According to the definition, images of the documentary “appear unstaged,” portraying daily scenes, global happenings, people, and places that were captured this year during the midst of dramatic changes and unimaginable experiences.

The element of surprise

As with many international photo festivals with a traditional theme, there are photos all over the place. But, fortunately, there are some surprises.

One of the surprises was Anna Bedynska’s Clothes for Death, A series of adoring portraits of people with their funeral outfits. Choose for their burial clothes.

Anna Bedynska’s Clothes for Death. Head On Festival

By adopting a more experimental form of Social Documentary, Bedynska pushes the medium beyond the conventional modes of social commentary that are from outsiders watching in. Instead, the work demonstrates that photography is able to spark conversations about taboo topics in gentle, moral ways.

The photographs also show the importance of clothing to us and the way that dressing, even when we die, is an essential part of self-expression.

Anna Bedynska’s Clothes for Death. Head On Festival

In contrast, The Art of Aging by Canadian photographer Arianne Clement is a collection consisting of black-and-white images of women in bare poses who are over 70. Another taboo subject – women who are older or over 30 rarely appear naked or not in popular images.

Thus, The Art of Aging is a visually based activism, showing the bodies of older women to be as sexually charged as their younger counterparts. As with the image of a woman who lies on her couch with the look of a teenager, The look that she has in her eyes suggests she is aware of something we don’t.

There are wonderful photos of intimate couples, showing those over 70 in the setting of their sexuality and love for one another.

Arianne Clement’s The Art of Aging. Head On Festival

Changing bodies

Jimmy Pozarik was photographer-in-residence at Sydney Children’s Hospital when he photographed 25 patients who were receiving treatment for this Then and Now series.

Anyone who’s been in a hospital with children will be aware of the trauma and pain of the experiences and the intense struggle for life that children and their parents go through.

Jimmy Pozarik’s Then and Now. Head On Festival

Pozarik blends the photographs from the residency with photos taken from the present. These images showcase the power of photography as they document how our appearance and bodies change over time.

It’s also worth a trip for the website The UnKnowing … the X of British photographer Richard Sawdon Smith. A collection of self-portraits in black and white shows him dressed in costume and role-play, expressing his erotic ways and the body’s in the midst of pain and strength.