THE shutters have come down on FotoFreo.
The chair of the internationally-renowned photography festival, Jude Savage, sent an email to subscribers Tuesday saying the board had decided to end the month-long biennial festival because of a lack of funding.
She wouldn’t say if Eventscorp, which had previously poured $140,000 into the event, had slashed funding because targets hadn’t been met.
Instead she bluntly recommended that the Herald read the organisation’s newsletter, which says only, “the funding was not renewed by one of the major sponsors and this in turn would make it more difficult to secure funding from other key partners”.
Chatter amongst local snappers is that Fremantle council community development director Marisa Spaziani wasn’t a big fan and was keen to cut the council’s support for the event, worth around $40,000 a year. The council had naming rights.
Ms Spaziani’s refused to answer questions about the festival, but mayor Brad Pettitt told the Herald the event was always going to get funding.
“There are rumours going around we weren’t going to fund it, but we were planning to make sure it was funded in our upcoming budget,” he said.
“I told Bob Hewitt (former FotoFreo director) that we wanted to fund it, but we haven’t done our budget yet. In my view it was a very exciting event.”
The demise is the latest blow to Fremantle’s crippled arts reputation, with Deckchair Theatre and Gallery East folding last year and Perth Galleries closing its doors to exhibitions. The Fly By Night Club last week announced it might have to relocate, while Harbour Theatre’s yet to find a home.
The WA Circus School is also homeless, although it’s apparently won a lease extension at the Old Customs House. The circus school is now being wooed by neighbouring Cockburn, which also this year snaffled the Nectar Women’s Day Festival from Fremantle.
Mr Hewitt, who started FotoFreo in 2001, was disappointed the event had gone under. “We spent 10 years building it up,” he told the Herald. “In the last few years it had become a cultural event of national and international significance. But in the arts, it’s all about the money.”
He was tight-lipped about why Eventscorp had pulled funding, and seemed to have forgotten his conversation with Dr Pettitt or has a different take on what transpired.
“You will have to ask Fremantle council about the funding, but all I know is they were not going to continue to fund it,” he said.
Local photographer Claire Martin, who exhibited her work Slab City in the 2010 FotoFreo, said it was “totally tragic” the event was no more.
“It is really sad, because when I was a student in 2004 I volunteered for it and it really opened my eyes to the broader world of photography.
“The experience can be very limiting in Perth, because it quite parochial, so the loss of FotoFreo is so sad.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER