09 February 2017

Arianna Rinaldo on Cortona On The Move

09 February 2017 - Written by PhMuseum

Arianna Rinaldo, the artistic director of Cortona On the Move, tells us about the festival and how she will handpick the PHM 2017 Grant project that will be granted a solo show at the upcoming edition, which will open in Cortona, Italy on 13 July. 

© Lynsey Addario, from the series It’s What I Do

After only six editions, Cortona OTM is already considered as one of the most important photography festivals in Europe. What is the secret of its success and what makes Cortona OTM different from other festivals around the world?

Since the beginning, Cortona OTM strived to be an international photo festival open to all languages within the contemporary documentary world, while maintaining a strong link to traditional expressions. The idea was, and is, to create an ensemble of exhibitions and related activities that attract professionals and amateurs as well. We want to speak the language of photography for all audiences. Also, the amazingly beautiful location of Cortona, on a hilltop in magical Tuscany, does the rest (as do the good food and wine!). A small town with an international atmosphere which allows interactions among guests and public.

For the PHM 2017 Grant you will hand pick one submission which will be granted a solo show during the upcoming edition of Cortona OTM. Can you tell us what you will be looking for? What triggers you?

This year, after six years, we have revisited the artistic concept of the festival, also in reference to the changes in photography and the general debates and issues surrounding the documentary world. “On the move” being our motto, we want to keep an idea of what is happening and what the future will bring to this ever-changing visual world, without however forgetting the sources and the masters. For the PHM 2017 Grant therefore, we will be particularly attentive to the language and style. We want to see stories with a strong concept and intention behind them, but also with a strong and original language, sometimes overflowing into other realms of the photo world but still speaking to a wide audience.

© Jerome Sessini, Magnum Photos

We know that a solo exhibition at an important festival can represent a significant moment for a photographer’s career. What do you think are the benefits for the photographer winning the solo show at Cortona this year?

All prizes and awards are good for a photographer in terms of visibility and also self-esteem. Seeing your work recognised and noticed cannot but trigger you to do more work. A solo show in Cortona, as the reward, will expose your work to a wide audience (last year 27,000 visitors came to Cortona for the festival throughout the summer), as well as all the experts and professionals visiting during the opening days. Getting your work on the wall, rather than having only an online exposure, certainly allows for it to transform itself, to be seen in a different, more contemplative way.

I know it is a bit early, but can you tell us something about the upcoming edition?

I cannot reveal much yet but there are a few novelties. Besides our known international prize in collaboration with Chianti, and this new prize for the PHM 2017 Grant, we are offering a new open call, rightly called NEW VISIONS, which also highlights the importance of photography as a language, a lingua franca that can speak to a broad audience. We have plenty of collaborations with old and new partners, as well as about 15 solo shows. A new location in the center of town, an immersive experience in the making and our well-known and appreciated communal dinners. Stay tuned!

© Rachel Papo, from the series Homeschooled

What advice would you give photographers and visual storytellers who visit the festival to get the most out of the experience?

As most festivals these days, we offer portfolio reviews, and I always strongly recommend photographers to participate. It is an incredible experience and a valuable exchange with professionals from all over the world. Also, our opening days are full of activities and talks. I am the unlucky one who has no time during inauguration time to listen and participate, but you can: do it! Don’t miss it!

What role will photo festivals play in the near future? How do you see them evolving?

It seems there are more and more each year! Which I think is great. After so much online exposure, email exchanges, and transferring of digital files, pings and sms, I think festivals offer the opportunity to sit together and talk eye-to-eye; to hear the voices, feel the passion and really allow photography to speak freely. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be the artistic director of such an event: to touch and experience the changes and challenges of photography from the inside, to give space and voice to the visions of those that spend their life gathering stories and finding the best way to communicate them.


Cortona OTM, the international photography festival, takes place in the historic town of Cortona, Italy from 13 July until 1 October 2017. To learn more, go to

To be considered for the solo show at Cortona OTM, apply to the PHM 2017 Grant before 15 February.

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