30 January 2018

February's Best Photo Festivals

30 January 2018 - Written by Simon Hall

Gulf Photo Plus Photo Week (Dubai), Exposure Photography Festival (Canada), and Rotterdam Photo Festival (The Netherlands) all open their doors this February. Learn all about them in our curated festivals guide.

Gulf Photo Plus Photo Week / Dubai / 7 - 12 February

© Tanya Habjouqa, from the series, Occupied Pleasures

GPP Photo Week is the MENA region’s longest running international photography event. Complete with exhibitions, photo walks, seminars, and workshops hosted by industry leaders, it is a week that aims to inspire, challenge, and connect photographers from around the world.

Among the exhibitions, Laura El-Tantawy showcases Beyond Here is Nothing, where the mental burden of loneliness and the constant search for belonging presents itself in the form of ambiguous visuals and subtle textures; Khalik Allah captures dignified portraits of marginalised communities that have found themselves living on the streets; Osborne Macharia’s Black to the Future | Reimagining Now introduces viewers to seven transcendental women who lead the charge toward a better tomorrow; and Jalal Sepehr reflects upon the turmoil currently facing the Middle East, using symbolism to attend to the challenges facing asylum seekers, the effects of war, and the process of endless emigration.

A series of workshops together designed to develop participants’ professional practice further enrich the public program. Documentary photographer Tanya Habjouqa will share key insights and strategies for students to develop, sustain, and publish their own personal and long-term projects; Maggie Steber – who will also mentor the PHM 2018 Grant New Generation Prize winner – will run a five-day course exploring the elusive mysterious nature of ideas; and Zack Arias will break down the complex world of lighting into essential elements employed in practical, day-to-day shooting. Discover more at

Exposure Photography Festival / Alberta, Canada / 1 - 28 February

© Sebastião Salgado, from the book, Genesis

Since its inauguration back in 2004, Exposure Photography Festival has aimed to engage enthusiasts, professionals, and audiences in a conversation about the past, present, and future of the photographic medium. A collection of museums, independent gallery spaces, and alternative cultural venues across the city of Alberta will present a rich program of exhibitions that together celebrate photography from near and far.

Among them, Olivier Du Tré presents his profound and evocative portfolio of subtle, quiet and sometimes even sentimental glimpses of the Canadian landscape, Dianne Bos references a famous World War I poem for her exhibition that consists of extraordinary photographs taken in ‘no-man’s land’ between the trenches on the Western Front; Shane Arsenault and Natalia Barberis present their latest collaborative project which reflects upon the diverse modern environment of Alberta and the encroaching presence of man-made scenery; the landscape photography of Bradford Washburn and Sebastião Salgado feature in The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies’ show Encounters with the Sublime; and Rocio Graham, Mia Rushton, and Eric Moschopedis together investigate how our perceptions of place, landscapes, and our interactions with nature are constantly shifting in the urban environment. 

The festival's supporting events are comprised of educational and discourse programs that contain storytelling workshops, portfolio reviews, book launches, and artist talks. Michael Itkoff, Christine Sowiak, Phillip Chin, and Ryan HK are among the experts taking an active part. Learn more at

Rotterdam Photo Festival / Rotterdam, Netherlands / 8 - 11 February

© Thomas Wrede, from the series, Real Landscapes

An annual manifestation that takes place within Art Rotterdam Week, Rotterdam Photo celebrates the wide spectrum of photography presented in contemporary image culture. Inspired by Rotterdam’s heritage as a port city, the festival will showcase its exhibitions in re-purposed shipping containers and in open-air public spaces, bringing photography outside of the traditional white cube setting.

The theme this year is FAKE | TRUTH, with selected photographers exploring how truthful an image can actually be and how fabricated and altered images may be a gateway to a new reality. There will be over 30 exhibitions, with works featured including Thomas Wrede’s Real Landscapes, a collection of individual photographs that together play with macro and micro perception; Our Face: Asia by Ken Kitano, a visual story that attempts to capture the world as an accumulation of localities with different thoughts and customs; Alexandra Striapunina’s Hidden Truth, a photographic journey that brings to light questions about loneliness and the essence of life; and Korean Winterscape by Lars van den Brink, a fine-art series delving into the curious skiing culture in South Korea.

A series of fringe events comprised of hands-on workshops and photo talks spread around the pop-up exhibition containers round-up the program of events. Among the guest speakers are photographer Robin Butter, visual storyteller Jan Rosseel, photographer Lyle Branson, founder of Viewbook Rien Swagerman and photographer Rob Hornstra. For further information, go to

Yangon Photo Festival / Yangon, Myanmar / 16 February - 4 March

© Paula Bronstein, from the series, Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Yangon Photo Festival is committed to showcasing a selection of the best photo stories from around the globe, and providing a space where the new generation of local photographers can learn about the medium. Founded by the Institut Français de Birmanie and French photographer Christophe Loviny, and now under the patronage of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, YPF has developed into a major event on the south-east Asian cultural calendar.

The highlights on the exhibition calendar this year include Paula Bronstein’s documentation of the lives of Afghan people against the backdrop of a brutal and protracted war; Adam Dean’s portrayal of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug crusade on the streets of Manila; Johan Bävman’s portraiture-based series that shines a spotlight on fathers who prioritise the connection to their children and family in Sweden; Alessandro Penso’s exploration of the conditions facing refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Europe; and World Press Photo’s travelling exhibition which showcases all the winners from last year’s contest.

In the supporting program, the Goethe Institut will present a show that delves into the history of Myanmar photographers, YPF laureates will feature in two nights of screenings at Maha Bandoola park, and Swiss documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, Soeren Senn will host a workshop on photo story editing. To find out more, visit



MedPhoto Festival / Crete, Greece / September 2017 - March 2018

Drawing inspiration from Paul Graham’s long-term work, New Europe, the 2017/18 edition of MedPhoto explores the theme, Europe: the Faces and the Territory. By bringing together photographers from across Europe and the Mediterranean in a series of artistic initiatives, the festival aims to foster and sustain meaningful social dialogue centred around the notions of old and new EuropeLewis BushTuri CalafatoGiovanna Del SartoRineke DijkstraRobin HammondNick HannesDavide Monteleone, and Jerome Sessini are among the featured photographers.


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Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

8 minutes

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