01 August 2019

August's Best Photo Festivals

01 August 2019 - Written by Simon Hall

OBSCURA Festival of Photography (Malaysia) and Visa Pour l'Image (France) join the likes of Cortona On The Move (Italy) and Les Rencontres de la Photographie (France) among the list of festivals you can visit this summer. Learn what exhibitions and public events they have in store.

OBSCURA Festival of Photography / Penang, Malaysia / 16 - 21 August

© Rory Doyle, from the series Delta Hill Riders. 2019 exhibitor

Set in the UNESCO World Heritage site of George Town in Penang, Malaysia, OBSCURA Festival of Photography is one of the highlights on the Southeast Asian cultural calendar, dedicated wholly to celebrating the art of visual storytelling. Entering its seventh year, the festival provides a platform for local and international photographers to promote, share, and disseminate their stories with the aim of fostering mature and thoughtful debate concerning the pressing issues of our time.

The exhibition program is centred around the theme of Subculture, as the curators look to celebrate the cross-pollination of ideas and values across the globe and examine their impact and influence on society today. Among the highlights, Rory Doyle explores the much overlooked history and traditions of African American cowboys in the Mississippi Delta; Anton Polyakov takes a look at the everyday lives of young people who were born and grew up in the unrecognised state of Transnistria; Anita Pochard Serra documents how people from different origins and horizons come together to broadcast alternative radio transmissions on the streets of Buenos Aires; and Hiro Tanaka offers a window into the weird and wonderful things that happen when travelling on the road with punk music bands.

Away from the print shows, OBSCURA will also host a series of nightly projections featuring photography from all over the world covering subjects from all the continents. The main features include a screening of work from the European Pressphoto Agency; a night of 16mm short films by young directors from the HfbK University of Fine Arts, Hamburg; and a multimedia showcase from PHmuseum displaying all the award-winning and shortlisted projects from the 2019 Photography Grant.

In the supporting events this year, OBSCURA has partnered with various organisations and agencies - such as the Goethe-Institut, the Japan Foundation, and the US Embassy - to bring together leading international photographers and editors to host a collection of talks and masterclasses. Learn more about the full list of activities at

Visa Pour l'Image / Perpignan, France / 31 August - 15 September

© Louie Palu, from the series Distant Early Warning. 2019 exhibitor

For 16 days across August and September, the scenic French-Catalan town of Perpignan will once again be transformed into the stage for the year's biggest celebration of photojournalism: Visa Pour l'Image. Various cultural spaces and a collection of pop-up venues will host a series of events that together look to draw attention back to those "expired" stories that nevertheless continue to develop away from the spotlight of the media.

The exhibitions on display will look to highlight some of the most affecting topics across the world, including Louie Palu's investigation into the gradual militarisation of the North American Arctic at a time when the region faces growing global warming challenges; Ivor Prickett's record of the human struggles resulting from the devastating fighting between Iraqi and Kurdish forces; Guillermo Arias' portrayal of the journey endured by thousands of Central American migrants travelling in large groups to the United States in the search for a better life; Adriana Loureiro Fernandez's exploration of Venezuela's free-fall into chaos as hyperinflation continues to cripple the population; and Kirsten Luce's documentation of animals exploited for the entertainment of tourists from different areas in the Amazon, Thailand, and Russia.

Visitors can also enjoy a series of evening screenings to be held in the open-air medieval enclosure of Campo Santo. Kicking off at 9.30pm om Monday 2 September, the program begins with a chronological review of the year's news stories, two months at a time. This is followed by features on contemporary society, ongoing conflicts, stories that have made the news and others than have been suppressed, plus reports on the state of the world today. An array of artist talks, roundtable panel discussions, educational activities, and portfolio reviews hosted by industry leaders round up the program of supporting events. For further information, visit



Ragusa Photo Festival / Sicily, Italy / 26 July - 25 August

Every summer since 2012, Ragusa Foto Festival has taken over the historical Sicilian town of Ibla to provide a space for the diffusion of contemporary photography with a particular focus placed on young photographers from the Mediterranean. The title of the 2019 edition, Intersezioni (Intersections), summarises the direction the festival is taking and looks to consider the changing cultural, social, and familial fabric of the twenty-first century. The exhibition line-up features six solo shows from Sam Harris, David Chancellor, Lisa De Boeck and Marilene Coolens, Daniel W. Coburn, Julia Kater, and Yvonne De Rosa.


Gibellina PhotoRoad / Sicily, Italy / 26 July - 31 August

Gibellina PhotoRoad is a unique event; the first and unparalleled open-air and site-specific festival in Italy. The festival aims to question how photography can shape itself in urban space and find new meanings and interactions with the viewing public. The theme this year is Fiction: "Photography, among all the arts, is the first to use reality as an indispensable raw material. Yet it too is a fiction, generated by technical tools used to create and reproduce a perfect copy of what the eye sees" write the curators. "It inserts itself in to the hidden most corners of the tangible, to make it so true that it seems unreal. Besides which, who said that what our eyes see is reality?" 32 exhibitions look to explore this question, with exhibitors including Joan Fontcuberta, Nicolas Polli, Sophie Zenon, Monica Alcazar-Duarte, and Terje Abusdal.


PHotoEspaña / Madrid, Spain / 5 June - 1 September

Since its inception in 1998, PHotoEspaña has fostered a decidedly international vision, focusing both on grand concepts and defined artistic territories. Once again under the directorship of Claude Bussac, the 2019 edition is one of the most compelling yet with an exhibition and supporting program that celebrates the power and beauty of photography as a storytelling medium. Some of the major attractions include Diana Markosian’s portrayal of Cuban girls celebrating their transition into womanhood; Clément Verger’s research-based work that questions the apparent naturalness of the landscapes; and Javier Vallhonrat’s investigative fieldwork at the Maladeta Glacier in the Pyrenees which is in a delicate state of conservation.


Les Rencontres de la Photographie / Arles, France / 1 July - 22 September

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Les Rencontres de la Photographie continues to enhance its reputation in the role of industry trendsetter. For this edition, in tribute to the founders’ trailblazing spirit, the curators have devised a busy program to acknowledge a jubilee of an adventure that has lost none of its vibrancy in half a century. The exhibitions fall under four main themes, namely My Body Is a Weapon, On the Edge, Inhabiting, and Building the Image, and together they look to shed light on a world in upheaval where the image often plays a key part as witness or actor. Evangelia Kranioti, Pixy Liao, Philippe Chancel, Marina Gadonneix, Juno Calypso, Natasha Caruana, Karen Knorr, and Martin Parr all feature.


Cortona On The Move / Cortona, Italy / 11 July - 29 September

Founded back in 2011, Cortona On The Move has evolved into one of the industry’s most dynamic and wide-ranging events, continually bringing new creative talents and novel forms of visual communication into the spotlight. Under the artistic directorship of Arianna Rinaldo, the festivals aims to serve as a reference point, not only for accomplished photographers and amateurs alike, but also for diverse audiences that are attentive to contemporary cultural trends and the ongoing transformation of the visual language. This year’s focus has taken shape around mankind and the landscape, with Nadia Bseiso, Yan Wang Preston, Paolo Verzone, Nanna Heitmann, and Andrea Botto among the names on display.


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Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

9 minutes

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