04 February 2021

February's Best Photo Festivals

04 February 2021 - Written by Simon Hall

Exposure Photography Festival (Canada) and Photo Australia (Australia) are the standout events on the photography calendar this February. Learn all about what exhibition programs and supporting events they have in store.

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

© Kriss Munsya, from the series The Eraser

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. The programming this year takes place both online and offline, with a collection of museums, independent gallery spaces, and local businesses presenting a rich offering of exhibitions and supporting events.

Exposure’s curated group shows - the International Open Call and Emerging Photographers Showcase – will once again be held at Contemporary Calgary, a popular visual arts destination dedicated to modern art. The exhibitions together present a broad range of works, including photojournalism and photocollage, abstract and politically engaged photography, and works that embrace social and individual experience, as well as visual explorations of identity and personal narratives. Among the highlights, Kriss Munsya embarks on a process of self-healing as he looks to reimagine memories of violence and discrimination; Sandra Chen Weinstein tells the stories of people from LGBT communities who constantly struggle for equality and acceptance; Jason DeMarte investigates current understandings of the natural world and how that compares to the way western society approaches its immediate consumer environment; and Antonio Faccilongo chronicles a love story set in one of the longest and most complicated contemporary conflicts, the Israeli-Palestinian war.

Elsewhere, in the supporting events, botanical artists Julya Hajnoczky and Rocio Graham will present a seminar about their parallel art practices that are deeply rooted in botanical knowledge; the Photoville FENCE exhibition returns once again spotlighting a wide range of photographic and lens-based stories; an online portfolio review program offers photographers the opportunity to present their work to industry professionals; Jack Blair will host a virtual walkthrough of his solo show Feeling the West; and Exposure co-ordinator Beth Kane will be moderating a series of conversations with exhibiting artists Brenda Kelly, Sean Du, Letizia Lopreiato, Jooeun Bae, and Rachel Nixon. Visit for further information.

Photo Australia / Melbourne, Australia / 18 February - 7 March

© Pieter Henket, from the series Congo Tales: Told by the People of Mbomo

This inaugural edition of Photo Australia – originally scheduled for last year – will look to reanimate the streets and galleries of Melbourne and reveal a revolutionary vision of post-COVID-19 possibilities for the world of photography, art, and culture. The festival has taken The Truth as its central theme with participating artists, curators, writers, and academics invited to explore the critical relationship between photography and truth. “There has been no more important time for our society to discuss and debate the issues of finding, sourcing, and understanding the truth”, writes Photo Australia 2021 Chair Mark Henry. “Whether it be alternative facts, augmented reality, or artificial intelligence, our notions, perceptions, and encounters of truth are constantly being questioned, eroded, and at times attacked. Photo Australia 2021 has been established to not only create a world-leading festival of photography, but to also continue to engage with, process, and discuss the major issues of our time”, he continues.

In the main exhibition program, over 120 artists will showcase work at over 65 cultural institutions. Among the highlights, Hoda Afshar reflects upon the experiences of whistleblowers who have voiced harms and misconducts being perpetrated in Australian institutions today; Sam Contis crops and recombines a series of photographs by iconic American photographer Dorothea Lange and loosens the images from their original contexts; Leyla Stevens explores the spectral trace of Bali’s political violence and looks at the ways the Australian surfer romance wiped the island clean of past atrocities; Pieter Henket communicates the urgency of protecting the world’s most powerful and fragile ecosystems and the people who call them home in the Congo Basin; and, in honouring WW1 soldiers from the Ballarat region, Trent Parke explores the tension between an image captured at a moment in time, and the organic, evolving nature of a living memorial.

Interlaced alongside these shows are a series of workshops, artist talks, and educational initiatives designed to help visitors approach the content of the festival more broadly. Standout events include Michael Coyne’s interactive workshop centred around what makes an extraordinary image and how it communicates a narrative; Shea Kirk’s artist talk on the processes and techniques behind his ongoing stereoscopic series Vantages; a theatre show by Marg Dobson that takes the audience on an investigative performance adventure unearthing uncelebrated Australian women photographers; and an exclusive online conversation with Emmanuelle Andrianjafy and George Georgiou about their book-making practices. Learn more about what’s on at



The Other Side - An Online Exhibition by PHmuseum / Online until 5 April

© Natalie Keyssar

Chronicling four years of in-depth migration reporting throughout Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, this exhibition highlights the work of thirty award-winning photographers who participated in the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Adelante Latin American Reporting Initiative. Moving through space and time, the seven galleries on display together present a multimedia portrait of what drives people to take seemingly insurmountable risks, to leave what they know and who they love, and to hang onto threads of hope as they courageously face the walls between them and the other side.


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

6 minutes

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