04 March 2021

The Best Photography Festivals Open this March

04 March 2021 - Written by Simon Hall

FORMAT Festival (United Kingdom), Circulation(s) European Young Photography Festival (France), and Month of Photography Denver (United States) are the headlines on the photography calendar this month. Learn all about their exciting exhibition programs and supporting events.

FORMAT Festival / Derby, United Kingdom & Online / 12 March - 11 April

© Anand Chhabra, from the series Dreams of our Fathers. 2021 exhibitor

FORMAT is the United Kingdom’s leading international contemporary festival of photography and related media. Held in the historic city of Derby, this biennial celebration of visual storytelling is the place to engage with an incredible range of work from new and emerging photographers alongside that of some of the best-known practitioners in the world. The curators place a continued focus on forming content and developing opportunities that empower audiences to see, debate, develop, contribute to, and participate in the best of what photography is, and can be.

Since its inception in 2004, each edition has adopted a core theme around which it is curated. The theme this year is CONTROL. The festival’s artistic director and co-founder Louise Fedotov-Clements says that this year’s programming “offers some amazing and inventive ways of understanding what control is, and means, to us and the many other people who have contributed.” Among the exhibition highlights, Etinosa Yvonne explores the various coping mechanisms adopted by survivors of terrorism and violent conflict in Nigeria; Ingmar Björn Nolting travels across Germany to capture both the frontlines and backyards of the coronavirus pandemic; Shelli Weiler documents the rise and proliferation of made-for-Instagram selfie factories throughout New York and Los Angeles; Satyadeep Singh examines the subject of identity through the dynamics of religion and caste-based discrimination; and River Claure re-imagines Antoine Saint Exupery’s book Le Petit Prince through contemporary Andean culture as a way to investigate simplified representations of collective identities.

Elsewhere, in the supporting events, virtual reality artist Rosie Summers will lead a masterclass focused on taking participants through the considerations around developing interesting and immersive worlds; Brian Griffin will host an artist talk via zoom that delves into his autobiographical book Black Country DADA; and a panel discussion chaired by Paul Lowe will look at two photographic projects initiated in response to Covid-19: Historic England’s commissioning and crowdsourcing project Picturing Lockdown and FORMAT’s mass participation #massisolationFORMAT. The festival will kick-off on 12 March with a single, all-day digital conference featuring a collection of speakers including special guest, American artist James Stanford, and keynote speaker, 2020 Deutsche Börse Photography nominee Clare Strand. Learn more about the full program at

Circulation(s) European Young Photography Festival / Paris, France / 13 March - 2 May

© Varya Kozhevnikova, from the series 13.31. 2021 exhibitor

First established back in 2011, Festival Circulation(s) has evolved into an innovative laboratory of contemporary European creativity and one of the must-attend photography events on the calendar. Each year, at the Centquatre-Paris and across satellite sites in France and abroad, it reveals the vitality of young visual storytellers and speaks for the diversity of photographic expressions through unique exhibitions and events. This year, in light of recently implemented government restrictions, the festival will not be accessible to the public for the time being, yet a series of online programs will commence on the opening date.

The curatorial direction for this – the eleventh – edition, has been bestowed upon the Artistic Committee of the FETART collective and they have compiled an exhibition line-up that delves into a range of different conceptual themes. A sample of the amazing work on display includes Anne-Sophie Auclerc’s exploration into the tension and ecstasy that drives people to flirt with death in order to feel incarnate; Jesper Boot’s abstract portrayal of the way power and politics have been depicted in the media for decades; Bianca Salvo’s inquiry into the patterns and models of representation on which our pop-culture psyche is based; Eleonora Agostini’s examination into the functionality of the home and the family dynamics that exist within the domestic sphere; and Varya Kozhevnikova’s autobiographical project that analyses mother-daughter relationships and the struggle with similarity and separation.

Away from the exhibitions, the Circulation(s) curatorial team has organised a program of meetings and networking opportunities that look to promote sharing and transmission in the form of portfolio reviews, conferences, screenings, and weekends dedicated entirely to the professionals of the photo world. Visitors with younger family members can also enjoy Little Circulation(s), an exhibition entirely thought for children that aims to develop their competences in observation, analysis, expression, and critical thinking. Further information can be found at

Month of Photography Denver / Denver, United States / 1 - 31 March

© Holly Anders, from the series The Fallen Fawn

Founded in 2004 by Denver-based artist Mark Sink, Month of Photography Denver has become an important platform for photography in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, with works by hundreds of local, national, and international artists having gone on display. Produced this year once again in partnership with the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC), the festival has engaged more than 75 venues including established museums, independent galleries, community art centers, non-profit organizations, and many other cultural spaces.

A collection of mixed-media presentations of photography are on display featuring a variety of narratives, all told through over 60 major shows. Among them, Zanele Muholi uses her body as a canvas to confront the deeply personal politics of race and representation in the visual archive; Fares Micue creates dreamlike, symbolism-infused self-portraits that integrate natural and surprising objects in vibrant hues; Shadows Gather documents the alternative nightlife scene around Denver and the colorful individuals that thrive in it; Holly Anders examines personal narratives and feminine subjectivity depicting short melodramas inspired by childhood memories; and Alisha Wormsley explores collective memory and the synchronicity of time through the stories of women of color, and more specifically, black women in America.

There is also a whole host of educational events that together present a wealth of opportunity for visitors to network and socialise throughout the duration of the festival. Some of the best offerings include a three-part lecture series organised by the Denver Art Museum spotlighting Colorado photographers from the local creative community; a free online seminar focused on digitising film archives; an artist talk hosted by Anastasia Pottinger exploring the ideas and processes behind her Centenarian project; and a workshop led by Frank Varney designed to help participants develop a powerful photographic presentation while clarifying style and career direction. To find out more, go to



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

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.


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

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. In the main exhibition program, over 120 artists will showcase work at over 65 cultural institutions with the likes of Hoda Afshar, Sam Contis, Leyla Stevens, Pieter Henket, and Trent Parke among the names on display.


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

8 minutes

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