Solar system images: Open Program judge Kate Gerritsen, prize winner Phil Hart and Fiona Sweet, FOTO Biennale Artistic Director. Photo: CAROL SAFFER

FOTO Open Program winner over the moon

October 6, 2019 BY

ECLIPSE followers are like storm chasers, a rare breed of photographic adventurers who seek out highly predictable astronomical events around the world.

Phil Hart, local astronomer and photographer is known as one of Australia’s most seasoned eclipse chasers.

Now Eclipsed! Hart’s exhibition in the Ballarat International FOTO Biennale is the winner of the Best Exhibition in the Open Program and recipient of $2000 prize money.

“I am thrilled and surprised to take out this award,” Hart said. “The events and the landscapes I photographed are unique, I captured images that will never be repeated.”

The exhibition’s focus is on lunar and solar eclipses in Victoria and Queensland with a spectacular series of images Hart took of the Great American Eclipse in 2017.

Hart carried and used complex equipment to capture a moment in time over the Teton Range in Wyoming, despite the unpredictability of weather and terrain.

“As an engineer I approach my field of photography quite technically but I do enjoy it because it draws out a creative side to the engineer in me,” he said. “There is an incredible degree of planning and logistics in capturing my photos.

“Plus a degree of artistic composition in planning how the events and the position of the sun and the moon are going to line up in the landscape.”

Hart’s passion for combining astronomy and photography creates distinctive images of an alignment of earth and sky that can never be repeated.

To capture the Great American Eclipse, he used 180 kilos of equipment and thirteen cameras.

Twice he pulled on his hiking boots to trek almost 4000 metres to the top of Table Mountain.

Eclipsed! hanging in Bibo Café and Restaurant on Sturt Street, brings that planetary motion to life in a dramatic way.

Each photographer is responsible for the expense and effort of preparing and hanging their work.

“It was a considerable investment in setting up an exhibition like this,” Hart said.

This was the first time in the Biennale’s history the Open Program exhibitions were judged.

A panel of six arts experts each had 10 exhibitions to review and score.

“We had a set of five criteria against we had to score out of 10 each photographer’s exhibition,” said Kate Gerritsen, one of the Foto Biennale Open Program judges.

“It was really enjoyable viewing new work and some of the venues I had never been to before.

“It was an immersive experience to have to think about what the artist was trying to do with their work.”

Speaking at the announcement Ms Gerritsen described Hart as a “star gazer” whose work is “technically complex.”

“He is an artist who has a clear passion and drive for what he is doing and I think that is not just about photography, I think it is about being a part of nature and exploring the world as an intrepid traveller.”