25 January 2019

February's Best Photo Festivals

25 January 2019 - Written by Simon Hall

The year is only just beginning but the 2019 photography festival season is already up and running. Exposure Photography Festival (Canada) and Rotterdam Photo Festival (The Netherlands) are among the highlights on the calendar this coming month. Learn all about their exhibition programs and supporting events.

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

© Lori Andrews, from the exhibition, The Female Lens

Established back in 2004, Exposure Photography Festival is on a mission to generate participation in photographic image-making and engage practitioners, photography professionals, and audiences in a dialogue about the medium: its past, its present, and its future. A collection of museums, independent gallery spaces, and alternative cultural venues across the city of Alberta will present a rich collection of exhibitions that together celebrate photography from near and far.

In the line up this year, emerging Quebec artist Jinyoung Kim fuses fiction and documentary in photography, video, and performance to delve into issues relating to belonging and loss; Jon Handforth provides a refreshing take on the Canadian Rockies through images devoid of the usual iconic compositions, stripped down to monochrome renditions; Debra Garside and Robert Pierce Butler offer a preview of their upcoming multi-year project that will explore the most remote corners of Mongolia; the land, the wildlife and its unique culture; Meryl McMaster looks at the dimensions of her own sense of identity and the complex history of the photographic representation of Indigenous peoples; and Lori Andrews, Elyse Bouvier, Haley Eyre, Rocio Graham, and Vivek Shraya are among the names to feature in a group show dedicated solely to the female gaze.

The festival’s supporting events are comprised of educational and discourse programs that include documentary photography workshops, artist talks with Edmund Clark and Elly Heise, a film photography seminar with Chris Malloy, and portfolio reviews hosted by leaders in the industry. Exposure also continues its partnership with United Photo Industries to showcase THE FENCE, a large-scale open-air travelling exhibition that presents work by photographers of all levels across seven thematic categories. Learn more at

Rotterdam Photo Festival / Rotterdam, The Netherlands / 7 - 10 February

© Batuhan Keskiner, from the exhibition City Sculptures / Wonderland

Rotterdam Photo Festival is an annual photo manifestation that takes place during Art Rotterdam Week, displaying the work of a wide range of visual storytellers that together celebrates the broad spectrum of the medium today. Inspired by the heritage of Rotterdam as a port city, the festival provides exhibiting photographers – all selected through an open call – with dedicated spaces in re-purposed shipping containers, bringing photography outside of the traditional “white cube”.

Among the exhibitors this year, urban explorer Jeroen van Dam presents his striking collection of images that reveal many of the lost and forgotten places of cities from across the world; Batuhan Keskiner documents agricultural product sculptures all around Turkey that are symbolising the main source of income for their cities; Keith Shuaib looks at how informal constructions and interventions modify urban spaces originally designed to project one set of ideas and values; and Aleid Denier van der Gon, Monique Baan, Marjolein van Veen, and Ehlana Polgara feature in an all-female group show titled City Limits that acts as a metaphorical guide for the times we live in: a world without limits and a continuing search for borders.

Elsewhere, in the supporting events, visitors can enjoy a series of artist talks, workshops, and a fringe program complete with music concerts and exhibitions on digital screens in public areas throughout the city. The festival has also partnered with World Press Photo Rotterdam to organise an evening of keynotes, Q&A’s, and presentations set to examine the photographic medium as a tool of change specifically relating to cultural and social structures in daily city life. Further information can be found at



Photo L.A. / Los Angeles, United States / 31 January - 3 February

The longest running international photographic art fair on the United States’ West Coast, Photo L.A. has been in operation for nearly three decades. This year, over 40 galleries and museums will present a series of exhibitions and an extensive public program comprised of lectures, roundtable discussions, special installations, and docent tours; all designed to spark critical debates about the state and future trends of photography and the art of collecting.


Gulf Photo Plus Photo Week / Dubai, United Arab Emirates / 4 - 9 February

GPP Photo Week is the longest-running international photography event in the MENA region. Packed with exhibitions, photo walks, special events, product launches, and workshops led by the world’s leading photographers, it is designed to inspire, challenge, and connect photographers and enthusiasts from around the globe. Asim Rafiqui, Mike Kelley, Nick Fancher, Paolo Verzone, Tanya Habjouqa, and Zack Arias are among those in attendance.


Yangon Photo Festival / Yangon, Myanmar / 18 February - 10 March

Over the past 10 years, Yangon Photo Festival has developed into a major event on the south-east Asian cultural calendar, building its reputation on showcasing the best photo stories from around the world and providing a space where the new generation of local photographers can learn about the medium. Under the artistic direction of Christophe Loviny, the festival this year will feature such international guests as Francis Latreille, James Nachtwey, Kevin Frayer, Jean Loh, Hossein Farmani, Gwen Lee, and Adrian Evans.


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Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

6 minutes

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