Funding blow puts focus on photography centre future

A major photography organisation will likely lose staff and have to find a new home, after Creative Australia knocked back its funding application.

The Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne is reeling after Creative Australia refused its application for about $100,000 annually over four years.

"It was really a shock... we're having to go into panic mode very quickly, unfortunately," centre director Daniel Boetker-Smith told AAP.

"Essentially we are looking at a forced scaling back and downsizing of Australia’s only dedicated independent photography institution."

It follows one of the centre's best years on record with more than 120,000 exhibition visitors, the work of 400 artists on show and thousands of university and school visitors.

Centre for Contemporary Photography
Organisers say the centre may need to scale back after its funding was cut.

The CCP is one of a handful of internationally respected photography institutions, on par with New York's International Center of Photography, and The Photographers' Gallery in London, according to Boetker-Smith, attracting tourists from the US and Europe.

"We're hugely respected internationally and it seems like we just don't get the credit or awareness in Australia that we actually deserve," he said.

He was hitting the phones on Monday to try and secure another space for the organisation - even with discounted rent, the CCP will likely have to move from the Fitzroy gallery it's leased since 2005.

The centre is run by the equivalent of 2.6 full time staff and relies on more than 30 volunteers.

It has received about $120,000 per year from Creative Australia, formerly the Australia Council, over the last decade, and was advised to ask for less money in the latest round, despite needing about twice that amount.

Well-known artist and chair of the centre, Patrick Pound, says he was gobsmacked that the CCP missed out and describes it as a case of woeful neglect.

"I would say that by the middle of next year, we'll be in dire straits if we don't get some sort of extra support," he told AAP.

While the centre also has private donors, fundraising efforts and commercial partnerships, its last two grant applications to Creative Australia have also been turned down, said Pound.

Creative Australia does not comment on funding for specific organisations, but says that despite spending more money overall, the latest funding round was extremely competitive.

Announced last Wednesday, it distributed $170 million to 159 arts organisations.

Many applicants were advised to ask for less money for 2025-28 than they initially wanted, Creative Australia has confirmed.

"We understand some organisations may be disappointed with the outcome of their applications," it said in a statement.

The CCP was founded in 1986 and is approaching its 40th anniversary, with evidence of the pipeline it has created for photographic talent on display at institutional galleries around Australia.

Other photography organisations such as Sydney's popular Head On photo festival have also missed out on Creative Australia funding.

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