Reportage Photography Festival is packing quite a few surprises in its 11th season. The documentary photography festival will premiere at Vivid Sydney, and show works across a range of platforms including exhibitions, outdoor projections, workshops and discussions.

Special guests at the festival include American husband and wife photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, and co-founder of New York’s Contact Press Images David Burnett. The latter will be exhibiting two bodies of work – Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley, and The Presidents: From JFK to Obama – on vastly different topics.

The festival’s co-founder and director Stephen Dupont has just come back from America, where his exhibition Papua New Guinea Portraits and Diaries recently opened in Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. “I actually had time to catch up with David Burnett, which was great,” Dupont says. “He’s one of the photographers we’ve got coming out who will be here for the very first time, which is exceptionally exciting. I’m also a huge and unashamed Bob Marley fan, so I’ve personally got a lot to look forward to.”

The intersection of professional and personal is a recurrent and welcome part of Dupont’s role. “Obviously working on my own exhibitions is much less stressful, because directing and curating is a massive challenge. The challenge of getting my favourite photographers and artists together at one festival is what makes the job, and this festival, so great. The level of responsibility doesn’t actually bother me, because I have a sense that this is going to create an enormous and very real buzz in Sydney. There is just so much being shown that people will never see anywhere else, much less in the one city,” he says.”

Cuba will occupy a significant element of the program. Webb and Norris Webb will launch their inaugural exhibition Violet Isle: Two Visions of Cuba, while three of Cuba’s most accomplished photographers will visit Australia for the first time. Cuban master Raul Cañibano Ercilla will have a retrospective of his work at Customs House, while photography couple, Leysis Quesada Vera and Arien Chang Castan will also exhibit.

Reportage will continue its commitment to collaboration by working with New York’s United Photo Industries. Part of the Photoville Festival will be transported from its Brooklyn home to Central Avenue in Hyde Park: four shipping containers will be placed near the Archibald Fountain to show three of the major exhibitions that were on show in New York last June.

A plethora of distinguished photographers will be part of Reportage, including renowned Russian photojournalist Yuri Kozyrev and Contact Press Images co-founder Robert Pledge. 10B Photography co-founders Francesco Zizola and Claudio Palmisano will hold a number of discussions and workshops throughout the festival on subjects including advanced post-production and operating the world’s pre-eminent digital darkroom.

The festival’s director admits he will be focusing on the highly anticipated projections. “Reportage was born with those projections, so I’m particularly interested in how they will work this year,” Dupont says. “They’re going to be outdoors next to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure they are really amazing.”

“I’m also really looking forward to an exhibition Anna (Maria Antoinette D’Addario) is curating entitled 4 Stories,” he continues. D’Addario is the festival’s assistant director and will present Australian photographers Jodi Bieber, Tamara Dean and Claire Martin alongside American Paula Bronstein in an investigation of the importance of and difficulties faced by women in the field.

“I really can’t pick just one thing that I’m particularly excited about,” Dupont says. “I am doing a workshop with James Nachtwey, and that’s pretty fucking exciting for me given he is one of my heroes.”

*Image credit: David Burnett, work from Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley.

BY BENJAMIN COOPER

Reportage Photography Festival runs from May 25 – June 13 in conjunction with Vivid Ideasat various participating venues.

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