30 January 2020

February's Best Photo Festivals

30 January 2020 - Written by Simon Hall

2020 is only just beginning but the photography festival season is already up and running. Exposure Photography Festival (Canada) and Rotterdam Photo Festival (The Netherlands) are among the main highlights on the calendar this February. Learn all about their exhibition programs and supporting events.

Exposure Photography Festival / Alberta, Canada / 31 January - 29 February

© Chris Malloy, from the series Rurban Landscapes. 2020 exhibitor.

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.

Among the highlights this year, Stefanie Villeneuve showcases her mixed media project that explores how our memories can change into new interpretations over time; Lee Nordbye provides a fresh take on the Canadian Rockies through his monochrome series depicting unusual textures and mind warping abstract shapes; works by Gemma Marmalade and Philip Harris present incisive examinations of English national identity; Chris Malloy draws from the aesthetics of cinema to document vignettes of the past found within the context of modern landscapes; Anne Tapler White offers an in-depth look at the everyday life of African people, from Accra, Ghana to Cape Town, South Africa; and a portrait-themed group show celebrates the diversity of individuals who are helping to build the world around us. Elsewhere, in the largest exhibition on display, the EPF International Open Call showcase brings together a broad range of works, including photojournalism and photo-collage, abstract and politically engaged photography, and works dealing with social and individual experience, along with visual explorations of identity and personal narratives.

The festival’s supporting program is comprised of educational and discourse programs that include documentary photography workshops, artist talks, seminars, and portfolio reviews hosted by leaders in the industry. EPF 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

© Perrine Philomeen, from the series Hijab in Transition. 2020 exhibitor

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 celebrate 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.

The theme for this edition is Transitions, with over 30 photographers invited to exhibit their work. The line-up includes Otto Snoek’s investigation into the growing sense of identity in many European countries that is going hand in hand with a rise in right-wing nationalism; Romy Eijckmans’ ongoing project that examines the feelings of isolation felt by those living in asylum centers in Belgium; Karl Stewart’s exploration of the towns entangled in the transition from a brick and mortar economy to a digital economy where the youth leave and the elderly remain; Perrine Philomeen’s portrait series that offers an ode the hijab as a fashionable and meaningful piece of clothing; and Labkhand Olfatmanesh’s deeply personal story of how he struggled to connect emotionally with his new surroundings having migrated from Iran to Europe and then the United States.

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 organised an evening of keynotes, Q&A’s, and presentations set to examine various aspects of visual culture and the role photography plays in it. Further information can be found at



Photo L.A. / Los Angeles, United States / 30 January - 2 February

Moving into its 28th edition this year, Photo L.A. is the longest running international photographic art fair on the United States’ West Coast. Over 40 galleries and museums will once again present a series of exhibitions and an extensive public program comprised of lectures, roundtable discussions, special installations, and docent tours. This collaborative platform is designed to spark critical debates about the state and future trends of photography and help cultivate connections between the industry elite and emerging talents alike.


Yangon Photo Festival / Yangon, Myanmar / 19 February - 14 March

Over the past 11 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. With the main theme centered on the urgency of the threats to the environment, and, in turn, mankind’s very existence, the 2020 program brings together more than 200 works and short photo-documentaries. Pascal Maître, Aung Thu, Paul Souders, Hkun Li, John Moore, and Stéphane Noël are among the international guests.


Visit our festivals page to get a full view of what’s on the photography calendar this year.

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

5 minutes

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