26 April 2018

May's Best Photo Festivals

26 April 2018 - Written by Simon Hall

Photo London (U.K.), CONTACT Photography Festival (Canada), and Head On Photo Festival (Australia) are among the highlights on the photography calendar this May. Learn all about them in our curated festivals guide.

Photo London / London, United Kingdom / 17 - 20 May (Preview 16 May)

© Edward Burtynsky (2018 exhibitor)

Taking place between 17 and 20 May (Preview 16 May) at Somerset House, Photo London 2018 - the fourth edition of the UK’s premier art fair - is set once again to showcase emerging artists alongside established masters in a celebration of the past, present, and future of the photographic medium.

The main section features 108 galleries from 18 different countries, with highlights including a homage to the beauty of the planet through powerful landscapes from Ansel Adams and Sebastião Salgado at Peter Fetterman Gallery; a display of Sohei Nishino’s series nominated for the 2018 Prix Pictet at Michael Hoppen Gallery; and all-female booths at Martin Asbæk (Helen Sear, Elina Brotherus and Trine Søndergaard), TJ Boulting (Maisie Cousins and Juno Calypso), and Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire (Helena Almeida, Katrien de Blauwer, Claudia Huidobro and Corinne Mercadie). There is also a collection of solo booth exhibitions this year featuring, among others, Bruce Gilden (Leica Camera), Guy Bourdin (Louise Alexander Gallery), Henry Wessel (Galerie Thomas Zander), Fiona Struengmann (AI Gallery), Delphine Burtin (Benrubi), Gian Paolo Barbieri (29 Arts in Progress), and Yusuke Yamatani (Yuka Tsurano).

Outside of the fair, the supporting public program will look at still and moving image, as well as innovative technologies, in a series of special exhibitions and events. The 2018 Master of Photography showcase sees Edward Burtynsky present a selection of new and rarely-seen images from his latest project, Anthropocene; the International Center of Photography (ICP) has teamed up with Photo London to create a new version of the installation Unwavering Vision, an interactive multimedia presentation by Alan Govenar, Jean-Michel Sanchez, and Julien Roger; and the 2018 Talks, curated by the former Director of the Musée de l’Elysée, William A. Ewing, are led by such prominent industry figures as Simon Roberts, Laia Abril, Joel Meyerowitz, Michael Wolf, Thomas Struth, and Max Pinckers. To find out more and buy tickets, visit

CONTACT Photography Festival / Toronto, Canada / Opens 27 April

© Yasin Osman, from the series Dear Ayeeyo (2018 exhibitor)

CONTACT Photography Festival, the largest photography event in the world, is expanding its scope across Toronto this year, presenting a broad spectrum of both physically and conceptually engaging forms of visual storytelling.

Among the exhibition highlights, Richard Mosse uses a military-grade thermal video camera to create highly complex images based on the documentation of refugee camps; Yasin Osman shares scenes of everyday life within the villages of Somalia; Trevor Paglen uncovers the physical markers of covert military and intelligence surveillance activities; Felicity Hammond examines how depictions of past and future urban developments dramatically shift and complicate the way that architecture is experienced; Aida Muluneh speaks to the struggles and achievements of the African diaspora across history; and Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme construct poetic narratives that speak to the ongoing conflict permeating the lands of Palestine.

In the supporting events, New York-based photographer Jason Fulford will host a two-day, photo-based workshop centred around the processes of editing and sequencing images; a panel of artists and scholars will discuss the repercussions of warfare through themes of commemoration and displacement; and the CONTACT Photobook Fair brings together more than 20 independent publishers and leading contemporary photographers to present newly released publications. Learn more at

Head On Photo Festival / Sydney, Australia / Opens 4 May

© Thom Pierce, from the series Price of Gold (2018 exhibitor)

Celebrating its ninth anniversary this year, Head On Photo Festival is dedicated to promoting the work of photographers at all stages of their career. Aiming to connect the Australian and international photographic communities, the festival’s curators organise an open call to select the exhibited work, with proposals judged solely on merit without the artists’ names or pedigrees.

In the line-up for this edition, James Whitlow Delano tells the story of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs that has seen an estimated 13,000 (and counting) extrajudicial victims; Jorge López Muñoz presents his documentary project focusing on the people of El Clot, a derelict apartment building in Valencia, Spain now occupied and restored by homeless gypsy families; Thom Pierce showcases his work commissioned by the Treatment Action Campaign that features 56 portraits of miners and widows caught up in a class action lawsuit in South Africa; Paula Bronstein displays her long-term reportage exploring the lives of the Afghan people against the backdrop of a brutal and protracted conflict; and Alain Schroeder documents the deeply complex and expensive rituals associated with death in Toraja, Indonesia.

The highlight of the public program is a series of speaking sessions hosted by David Dare Parker (award-winning photojournalist), Marcus Lyon (TED Talk presenter), Debi Cornwall (documentary photographer), Andrea Durbach (director, Australian Human Rights Centre), Jamey Stillings (commercial photographer), and Megan Dick (gallerist and curator, Head On Photo Festival), among others. Together they are set to touch upon topics that include the value of gallery representation, the shifting landscape of media, documenting humanitarian crises, and how to archive personal projects. Further information can be found at

Les Boutographies / Montpellier, France / 5 - 27 May

© Annalisa Natali Murri, from the series The Black Line (2018 exhibitor)

Founded in 2001, Les Boutographies is based on the simple principle to show the latest proposals of contemporary image-making in Europe. “Some of the photographers who we are exhibiting this year seem to have taken heed of the plethora of photographic images, to the point of forgoing the production of new ones” writes artistic director, Christian Maccotta. “Their work is based on the re-use of existing images, whether they be old ones that they own or those in free circulation under various guises, such as family memories, scientific proofs, propaganda, etc.”

There are 12 official exhibitions this year, with works featured including Camille Gharbi’s Lieux de vie, a series examining the constructions that once existed at Lande refugee camp; Hayati by Karim El Maktafi, a deeply personal documentary essay which delves into his own identity as a second-generation Italian; Patrick Wack’s Our West, a visual narrative of China’s westernmost region – Xinjiang – which borrows from romanticised notions of the American frontier; and I loved my wife by Dieter de Lathauwer, a story that questions the value of a person when compared to their level of utility or cost to society. Among the supporting events, Annalisa Natali Murri, Claire Delfino, David Denil, Florian Roche, Katrin Streicher, and Stéphane Guillaume are among the photographers to feature in a series of projections; Anne Guillaume will present an installation/reading from texts and testimonies on the occasion of the international day against homophobia and transphobia; and L'Aberrante Gallery hosts a discussion with Marie Docher about female photographers and the clichés surrounding their practice. To learn more, go to

ImageSingulières / Sète, France / 8 – 27 May

© Justyna Mielnikiewicz, from the series The Meaning of a Nation (2018 exhibitor)

From 8 to 27 May, the French port city of Sète will transform into a stage for photography, hosting exhibitions and cultural initiatives that together showcase a broad spectrum of visual storytelling from artists all over the world.

The shows and screenings, curated by Gilles Favier, will take place in a mix of both traditional white-cube gallery spaces and unconventional venues dispersed around Sète. Among them, photography duo Andrea and Magda will present their absurd representations of the landscape that touch upon society’s relationship to contemporaneity; Justyna Mielnikiewicz explores borders as ever-changing spheres of influence that overlap physical markers on the map; João Pina delves into the contrasts and complexities of life in Rio de Janeiro over the last decade; Chloé Jafé looks at the role of women in the Japanese mafia; and Maurico Toro Goya plays with the boundaries of religion, mass culture, and politics in a series of staged images that bring to mind the great Masters of Baroque painting.

Outside of the exhibitions in the public program, Cédric Gerbehaye will host a workshop that breaks down the formulation of personal projects, journalists and photographers are invited to take part in a series of debates about the state of the photographic profession, and Librairie Histoire de l'Oeil is providing a space for the exchange of ideas around photobooks. Visit for more details.



PhotOn Festival / Valencia, Spain / 8 - 12 May

Founded in 2011 by photojournalists working in Valencia, PhotOn Festival supports and promotes the work of emerging photographers who use their medium as a tool to encourage social change. The primary exhibitions in 2018 are FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo (Josué Rivas, Zackary Canepari and Danielle Villasana), A Convulsed World (Andoni Lubaki), Bola Extra (Francisco Moltó), and Killing the World, a group show that explores climate change as one the most defying challenges of our time.


Krakow Photomonth / Krakow, Poland / 25 May - 24 June

Featuring an international slate of artists, Krakow Photomonth this year is focused on the theme, Space of Flows: Framing an Unseen Reality, with participating artists selected for their ability to unravel the present while simultaneously accounting for the past and imagining possible futures. Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth, Anaïs López, Eva Leitolf, Daniela Friebel, Michał Łuczak, and PHM 2017 Grant winner Salvatore Vitale are among the names to feature.


Fotobookfestival Kassel / Kassel, Germany / 31 May - 3 June

Since its foundation in 2009, Fotobookfestival Kassel has emerged as one of the most important annual forums in the world of photography books, bringing together publishers, designers, printers, curators, and photographers from around the world. The program this year includes lectures by international guests, three official exhibitions, a book market presenting up to 50 publishers, and artist talks with David Goldblatt, Susan Meiselas, Anders Petersen, John Gossage, Dana Lixenberg, JH Engström, Thomas Sauvin, Carlos Spottorno, and Mathieu Asselin.


Kyotographie / Kyoto, Japan / 14 April - 13 May

Held in the ancient city of Kyoto, Japan, Kyotographie International Photography Festival looks to highlight the work of traditional artisans while also featuring contemporary image-makers and renowned visual storytellers. The exhibitions are presented outside of the traditional white cube gallery format and in harmony with the natural and cultural settings in which they are presented. Featured photographers include Masahisa Fukase, Alberto García-Alix, Lauren Greenfield, Frank Horvat, and Izumi Miyazaki.


Circulation(s) / Paris, France / 17 March - 6 May

Since its foundation in 2011, Circulation(s) festival has evolved into a laboratory of contemporary creativity dedicated to the dissemination of European photographic diversity. The curators’ main ambition is to widen the range of perceptions and audience experiences, presenting young, emerging talents who are displaying many different takes on the world. Susannah Baker-Smith, Çağdaş Erdoğan, Frank Herfort, Louis Quail, and Elsa Leydier are among the exhibitors this year.


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Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

12 minutes

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