30 July 2020

August's Best Photo Festivals

30 July 2020 - Written by Simon Hall

As large parts of Europe continue to emerge gradually from lockdown, Visa Pour l’Image (France) and PhEST (Italy) join the likes of Noorderlicht International Photo Festival (The Netherlands) and La Gacilly Photo Festival (France) among the list of festivals you can visit this summer. Learn what exhibitions and public events they have in store.

Visa Pour l'Image / Perpignan, France / 29 August - 27 September

© Nicole Tung, from the series The People Dissent. 2020 exhibitor

For 16 days across late August and early 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. While this edition will be different and feature a program reduced to 20 exhibitions, the festival is determined to go ahead and is steadfast in its desire to continue supporting freedom of expression and work produced by photographers covering and communicating news stories and information.

A selection of the standout work on display this year includes Victor Moriyama’s investigation into how deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has gradually become more severe in Brazil under a right-wing government and president; Ian Willms’ exploration into Canada’s slow motion cultural genocide as industrial development continues to destroy the environment of traditional territories; James Whitlow Delano’s examination of the environmental plague of plastic waste that bears down hardest on the developing world; and Nicole Tung’s portrayal of young protestors continuing to live in hope despite the increasingly bleak prospects for the political future of Hong Kong.

Visitors can also enjoy six evening screenings to be held in the open-air medieval enclosure of Campo Santo. Kicking off at 9.30pm on Monday 31 August, 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. A collection of artist meetings, roundtable panel discussions, and educational activities – all to take place online - round up the program of supporting events. For further information, go to

PhEST - See Beyond the Sea / Monopoli, Italy / 7 August - 1 November

© Jacob Balzani Lööv, from the series /ustica/. 2020 exhibitor

Held in the small city of Monopoli in Puglia on the southeastern coast of Italy, PhEST - See Beyond the Sea is dedicated to the exposure of photography, cinema, music, and art expressions from the Mediterranean. The festival was born in 2016 out of the need to give a voice back to the thousands of identities that form the “sea within the lands”, and a growing desire to define new, original imagery in the region. “The necessity is not to erase the distance that the Mediterranean creates among these identities, because this sea, in fact, creates them and blends them,” writes the festival’s curator Arianna Rinaldo. “The need is rather to stitch back together the divide between reality and its representation, beyond the theater of truth, beyond that stage of the real that the West has often set up. At a time when everything seems to deserve a new definition, we see the necessity to start from here, from the unsettling idea of re-writing the present over and over again. Contemporary photography is the perfect means to trigger this reconstruction”

This year’s edition is set to open on 7 August and run through 1 November. In the exhibition line-up, Luca Locatelli will present his acclaimed project that portrays some of the most promising high-tech agro farming systems in the world that may ultimately allow us to reduce our dependency on water; Ciril Jazbec will display his series focused on the incredible scale and real impact of the ingenious ice stupa movement in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas; Dillon Marsh will exhibit his CGI models that depict accurately scaled ice models within typical human environments in a comment about how climate change continues unabated; and, courtesy of the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant prizes, Jacob Balzani Lööv will showcase his work /ustica/ that looks at how a plane crash in the Tyrrhenian Sea 40 years ago forever altered the identity of a small Mediterranean island. The curatorial team will also put together an outdoor installation comprised of images that photographers have submitted to PhEST’s ongoing #PHESTCHIAMATERRA open call. To learn more about that and the festival’s other supporting events, visit

Cortona On The Move / Cortona, Italy / 31 July - 23 August

© Andrea Frazzetta, from the series Life or Death Shifts. 2020 exhibitor

Having made the decision to shelve their original plans for this year’s festival back in March amid all the coronavirus uncertainty, Cortona On The Move has returned with a special edition dedicated entirely to covering COVID-19. The curatorial team partnered with Intesa Sanpaolo to conceive and produce a digital multi-media platform titled The COVID-19 Visual Project. A Time of Distance. The initiative aims to provide a permanent and constantly updated archive that acts as a historical memory of these unprecedented times and, through the use of visual narrative languages (photography, videos, texts, sounds), it documents how different aspects of the coronavirus crisis have impacted the lives of millions of people around the world.

Now, as Italy and the wider world begins to open up, the Cortona On The Move team has decided to reopen the festival and give space to physical exhibitions. With certain social distancing restrictions and a limited number of exhibitions, they will showcase a selection of work that has been commissioned to form the archive of The COVID-19 Visual Project. Highlights of the work on display include Alex Majoli’s poignant black and white series that details his journey from Sicily through Milan and Rome to the Slovenian border as the pandemic was taking root; Andrea Frazzetta’s collection of portraits that reveal the effort and commitment of the frontline doctors, nurses, paramedics and volunteers in Italy; Nanna Heitmann’s visual essay on how different charities are helping Moscow’s most vulnerable communities through the pandemic; Gaia Squarci’s intense depiction of the health crisis that engulfed Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn; and Simon Norfolk’s eerie portrayal of a deserted London at the height of lockdown in England. Gideon Mendel, Paolo Woods & Gabriele Galimberti, Daniel Etter, Daniele Ratti, Michele Spatari, Mo Scarpelli, Silvia Bigi, and Serena Vittorini are also among the showcased names. All the exhibitions are open from 31 July to 23 August every day from 10am to 8pm. Learn more at



Fotofestiwal / Łódź, Poland / 6 – 23 August

Established back in 2001 as one of the first photography events in Poland, Fotofestiwal has since evolved into one of the biggest festivals in central Europe, staying true to its mission of presenting visual stories in various ways while maintaining a focus on tackling seminal social issues and contributing to the wider debate on culture and society. This year’s festival poses questions around what is hidden behind the need to collect, own, and catalogue photographs. Can collecting become an obsession? What is the value of the photographs we want to keep with us? Jean-Marie Donat, Jorge Fuembuena, Kata Geibl, Marcel Rickli, Shelli Weiler, and Máté Bartha are among the names presenting work that look to investigate these themes.


Bronx Documentary Center – Latin American Foto Festival / New York, United States / Until 9 August

Celebrating its third anniversary this year, The Bronx Documentary Center’s annual Latin American Foto Festival is comprised of a collection of small exhibitions scattered around the New York City borough of the Bronx featuring work from Caribbean and Latin American photographers. Among the highlights of the work on display, Luisa Dörr explores cowgirl and rodeo life in Brazil, Adriana Parrilla dives into the cultural roots of Afro-identity in Puerto Rico, Adriana Loureiro Fernández reflects upon the violence and political upheaval in Venezuela, and Jorge Panchoaga documents the Nasa indigenous communities of Colombia.


Noorderlicht International Photo Festival / The Netherlands / 4 July - 20 September

Under the curatorship of Robert Jan Verhagen, the 27th edition of Noorderlicht International Photography Festival is titled Generation Z and seeks to examine the mindset and energy of the youngest generation of world citizens, born after 1995. What is their place in society? How do they see their future? What are their ambitions? By tapping into these questions – the hopes and fears of Generation Z – Noorderlicht aims to provide insights into their young adult world. “If one thing is clear to this generation it’s this: the current system no longer suffices,” declare the curatorial team. “They collectively take to the streets to bring about change and fight hand in hand for a new balance between the forces that must guarantee the future of this planet. The selected artists in this festival show a generation focusing on fundamental emancipation processes.” Elena Aya Bundurakis, Jan Stradtmann, Madeline Swainhart, Marie Lukasiewicz, Sebastian Steveniers, Viktor Naumovski, and Sheng-Wen Lo are among the names on display.


Helsinki Photo Festival / Helsinki, Finland / 7 July - 30 September

The Helsinki Photo Festival pushes the boundaries photography exploration in Finland and brings the artistic medium of storytelling back on the streets. Amidst the wave of cancellation of cultural events sweeping the cultural scene all over the world, HPF moved forward and continues to build its program for the festival this summer. For a period of twelve weeks, between 7 July and 30 September, the event will feature artist-talks, workshops, seminars, portfolio reviews, photo walks, and exhibitions inviting all photo enthusiasts of any age to experience extraordinary innovative images taken by Nordic and international photographers.


La Gacilly Photo Festival / La Gacilly, France / 1 July - 31 October

Set in the heart of the rural environment of Brittany, France, La Gacilly Photo Festival has forged an international reputation on its commitment to exploring the great social and environmental challenges facing society today. Festival-goers this year can discover three outdoor free-to-access exhibition routes dedicated to the themes Climate and Photography, Viva Latina!, and Preserving Biodiversity. This program brings together 18 shows, the highlights of which include Luisa Dörr’s work portraying the Bolivian women who adopt the very masculine codes of wrestling to empower fellow women in their community and Carolina Arantes’ candid series offering a close-up view of the damage caused by huge fires and widespread deforestation in the Amazon.


Check out our festivals page to get a complete view of what's coming up on the photography calendar over the next few months.

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

10 minutes

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