The Best Photography Festivals Open this June - PHmuseum
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03 June 2021

The Best Photography Festivals Open this June

03 June 2021 - Written by Simon Hall

Fotofestiwal (Poland), PHotoEspaña (Spain), and Belfast Photo Festival (Northern Ireland) are among the highlights on the photography calendar this June, one of the most vibrant moments of the year to attend festivals and connect with the leading professionals of our industry.

Fotofestiwal / Łódź, Poland / 10 - 27 June

© Federico Estol, from the series Shine Heroes. 2021 exhibitor

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. The program of this, the 20th, edition has been prepared jointly by Łódź curators, activists, creators, universities, and students, and together they will create a story about the city whose fascinating history combines the creative pursuit of avant-garde artists with the popular working-class culture.

When it comes to numbers, Fotofestiwal 2021 includes over 40 exhibitions around Łódź, two festival centres, and presentations of the works by over 150 visual artists. Among the highlights, Federico Estol captures the Bolivian shoe shiners working in the suburbs of La Paz and El Alto who have developed into a social phenomenon; Sima Choubdarzadeh investigates the rules and traditions that stem from religions and how they can establish inequality between men and women; Irmina Walczak explores the experience of quarantining far from a large city in which contact with nature brings relief but also tension enhanced by human absence; Agnieszka Kurant focuses on the simultaneously creative and destructive role of error in the face of modern automation and algorithmisation; and Colin Delfosse creatively documents the various societal challenges facing the inhabitants of the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kinhasa.

In other standout events, Józef Robakowski has teamed up with the Workshop of Film Form to present a screening that attempts to expose film’s potential to create an illusion of reality as it was exploited by professional cinema; Mariusz Wilczyński showcases his first feature-length animated film that reveals a moving, dreamlike journey into a bizarre fantasy world full of past emotions; and Galeria Czynna has organised a series of artistic and social events dedicated to examining how the city of Łódź is perceived by outsiders. To learn more, visit fotofestiwal.com.


PHotoEspaña / Madrid, Spain / 2 June - 30 September

© Isabel Muñoz, from the series We Are Water. 2021 exhibitor

Since its inception in 1998, PHotoEspaña has had a decidedly international vision, focusing both on grand concepts and defined artistic territories. Over the years it has emerged as one of Europe’s finest festivals, showcasing a diverse range of photography across a variety of institutions that together reflects upon the important role of the image.

Once again under the directorship of Claude Bussac, the 2021 edition is set to be one of the most wide-ranging and compelling yet with an exhibition and supporting program that celebrates the power and beauty of photography as a storytelling medium. Some of the major attractions include Marilene Ribeiro’s exploration into the lights and shadows of hydroelectric energy from the perspective of the inhabitants of areas affected by major civil works; Liza Ambrossio’s investigation into the practice of free association with which she delves into the personal discomfort she has felt as a result of familial conflicts; Paola Bragado’s ethnographic portrayal of women who accompany clients to dance in live music nightclubs in Mexico City; Isabel Muñoz’s installation that confronts society’s lack of commitment to one of the main challenges we face: global warming; and a collective photobook exhibition that celebrates the medium as an important vehicle for dissemination and expression for its authors.

Away from the exhibitions, there is also plenty for visitors to enjoy. The Discoveries PHE program includes portfolio viewings with the purpose of creating a space where photographers can receive feedback, discover current trends, and broaden their professional network; Espacio Fundación Telefónica will host a series of screenings divided into three meetings with three great experts in photography and visual arts who will discuss different issues related to social development; and The Canal Foundation and PHotoEspaña have teamed up to present another year of Saturday photo workshops that will allow children and young people to become familiar with the practice of photography. More information about the complete list of events can be found at phe.es/en.


Belfast Photo Festival / Belfast, Northern Ireland / 3 - 30 June

© Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thymann, from the series Shroud. 2021 exhibitors

Taking Future(s) as its theme, the 2021 edition of Belfast Photo Festival tackles issues as diverse as climate change, migration, the advancement of technology, government surveillance and the power of protest, to explore how the future is shaped by our actions in the present. Rather than presenting a singular vision of what this future might be or look like, the festival instead offers up a speculative, imaginative glimpse into the myriad possibilities of what might lie ahead.

“Many of the exhibitions and events in this year’s festival are underpinned by the urgency of rethinking our future in light of events of the past year, which have not only altered the course of humanity, but have also deepened and illuminated stark inequalities in society at large”, write the curators. “In our era of pandemics, global migration, political upheaval and technological connection – when perhaps the future has never felt so unclear – the 2021 Belfast Photo Festival offers up a refreshing and provocative program of exhibitions and events that urge us all to question: What kind of world do we want to collectively create?” Among the featured shows, Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thymann address financial issues as driving forces behind human adaptation to the changing climate; Mandy Barker reveals a narrative concerning oceanic plastics from initial attraction and attempted ingestion; Suzanne Lacy amplifies the voices and experiences of border residents during Brexit negotiations through words, imagery, sound, and performance; and Zanele Muholi documents and celebrates the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

Elsewhere, in the supporting events, a group of international photography curators will lead a talks series in which they will share their thoughts in relation to current photographic practice; Marcel Ricki will host a presentation of his work that explores the predicament of nuclear futures and raises fundamental questions of an anthropological nature; artists Quentin Lacombe and Benoit Jeanette come together in conversation with sociologist and visual anthropologist Joël Vacheron to discuss the future of image-making practice; and photographers will be afforded the opportunity to meet one on one with professionals from across Asia, Europe, and America through two days of portfolio reviews. Information about the full program can be found at belfastphotofestival.com.


Copenhagen Photo Festival / Copenhagen, Denmark / 3 - 30 June

© Ira Lupu, from the series On Dreams and Screens. 2021 exhibitor

From 3 through 30 June, Copenhagen Photo Festival will take over the Danish capital for the twelfth time with a wide-ranging program that celebrates contemporary photography and takes a deep dive into current social themes. Hosted across more than 50 cultural venues and pop-up gallery spaces throughout the city, the festival is founded upon three core pillars – Framing Identity, Framing Society, and Framing Vision – which together look to explore myriad subjects concerning identity, society, vision, and the medium as an art form today.

In the exhibition line-up this year, Ira Lupu investigates how intimate and real we can get through a web camera and what emotional patterns are likely to be formed after hours of broadcasting on the internet; Alastair Philip Wiper shines a light on the way people take control of their sex lives and sexual identities—choosing where, how and when they get their sexual satisfaction; Hashem Shakeri deals with issues of exile, isolation, self-alienation, and abandonment as experienced by the contemporary man regardless of geography; Ute Behrend documents ordinary everyday objects that are imitations of plants, stones, and animals in places where one would expect their real pendants; and Stig Marlon Weston examines how the scientific method of looking at climate change can be depicted as a way in which to see and sense the natural environment.

Elsewhere throughout the festival, Blankt Papir Press owner Julia Mejnertsen and NW Gallery owner Nina Worren have come together to curate a Photobook Corner “ROOM”; Cemre Yesil Gönenli will talk about the stories behind and the process of making his photobooks Hayal & Hakikat, Double Portrait and For Birds’ Sake; and Christina Englund will be hosting a presentation of her newly published novel Slugt, a fictional and personal story based on Francesca Woodman’s life and last days. For further information, go to copenhagenphotofestival.com.

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ALSO OPEN THIS MONTH:

Les Boutographies / Montpellier, France / 19 May - 30 June

Every year since 2001, spring in Montpellier, France has become synonymous with Les Boutographies. This small but compelling festival has, from its very inception, been based on the simple principle of discovering and promoting the latest proposals of contemporary image-making from Europe. The Artistic Director this year, Christian Maccotta, has placed a particular focus on narratives surrounding acute questions of identity and the 13 official exhibitions cover a wide range of photographic expression within that concept. Among the highlights are Agata Wieczorek’s video-based project that introduces a prevalent yet surprisingly popular worldwide Masking fetish subculture; Marco Marzocchi's visual diary that searches for the cause of a childhood profoundly disturbed by his environment; and Jagoda Wisniewska’s investigation into the power and powerlessness that bonds so deeply within the mother-child relationship.

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Fotografia Europea / Reggio Emilia, Italy / 21 May - 4 July

Featuring over 15 exhibitions, Fotografia Europea has returned to transform the charming northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia into a space dedicated to the celebration of contemporary photography. After the forced pause that led to the cancellation of last year’s events, Fotografia Europea 2021 starts from a verse by Gianni Rodari – Sulla Luna e sulla Terra / fate largo ai sognatori! (On the Moon and on Earth / make way for dreamers!) to highlight the importance of imagination, in its creative meaning, in generating meanings, and visions. The standout shows include Donovan Wylie’s examination of mostly invisible architectural structures that weave the presence of conflict into the fabric of daily life; Lebohang Kganye’s deep and philosophical exploration of the materiality of photography as a tool in the (re)construction of collective memory; and Alex Majoli’s reflection upon the relationship between the theatre and the city and its possible interconnections.

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Ci.CLO Bienal Fotografia do Porto / Porto, Portugal / 14 May – 27 June

Moving into its second edition, Ci.CLO Bienal Fotografia is built around the idea of challenging existing cultural, environmental, political, and economic contradictions in our contemporary world. “When we defined the binomial theme Adaptation and Transition for the festival in 2019 we were aware of the urgency and topicality of its meaning”, explain the curators. In the line-up, a dual show showcasing the works of Susan Meiselas and Alfredo Jaar draws attention to the aftermath of Portuguese colonialism in different geographies, Porto and Angola; Nuno Cera investigates the spatial qualities of three architectural complexes in a video installation that creates an ephemeral landscape in which three times and geographies coexist; and James Newitt merges found material and animation to reimagine the sea as a space of extraterritoriality.

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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

2021 Mobile Photography Prize

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