Focus of Photival festival on Wellington campus

Keynote speaker at social documentary photo festival Photival, Australian-based environmental photographer Michael Hall, is an alumnus of Massey University.

Photo manipulation in the age of fake news is among hot topics on the agenda at the social documentary photo festival Photival, co-hosted at Massey’s College of Creative Arts in Wellington from April 26-29.

Massey University’s Wellington campus and staff from Whiti o Rehua School of Art will be front and centre at the festival, which showcases thought-provoking and inspiring photographic work. The programme also includes talks, panel discussions and workshops with some of New Zealand’s leading photographic design practitioners from the School of Art and commentators on the use of imagery in wider social contexts.

School of Art senior lecturer Associate Professor Ann Shelton, a former photo journalist whose award-winning artistic photographic work engages conceptual and documentary approaches, is part of a panel that includes investigative journalist Nicky Hager. The panel will discuss how to approach visual media and be more wary of fake news in the age of Instagram, photoshopped billboards and image manipulation.

“An ability to read and understand images is critical in today’s society, including an ability to understand the complex contexts in which they circulate, Ms Shelton says.” The use of photography as a vehicle for fake news, is an extension of the power photography has always had to assert and influence. Understanding these mechanisms and how fake news images operate is a valuable skill."

Ms Shelton’s colleague, lecturer Caroline McQuarrie who works with photography, video and craft practices, will be running portfolio reviews for photographers wanting their work assessed by a knowledgeable team of specialists in documentary photography. She will be joined for the portfolio review workshop by alumni of the University, environmental photographer James Gilberd and Virginia Woods-Jack.

One of the opening events of the three-day festival is a panel discussion featuring Associate Professor Sean Phelan from the School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing. He will be debating issues around exiting photographic coverage in New Zealand and asking the question what issues aren’t getting enough attention that could be helped through visual story telling?

Other panel sessions include discussions about photography’s role in activist movements happening around the world.

The keynote address is being delivered by Australian-based photographer Michael Hall whose eye-catching images speak strongly about the human impact on the world’s environment. Currently undertaking an extensive project to document the causes and effects of climate change and to improve ecological awareness, Hall was the first creative fellow of the Climate Institute in Australia and is an alumnus of the Wellington Polytechnic, the forerunner institution to Massey’s College of Creative Arts.

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