28 April 2020

May's Photo Festivals

28 April 2020 - Written by Simon Hall

The COVID-19 global health crisis continues to cause major disruptions to the photography calendar with more festivals forced to either cancel or postpone. Here, we explore how those originally scheduled to open this coming month have responded. Featuring FORMAT Festival (United Kingdom), Head On Photo Festival (Australia), and Krakow Photomonth (Poland).

FORMAT20 Off Year / Derby, United Kingdom / Digital content available

© Max Pinckers, from the series Margins of Excess

The FORMAT20 Off Year exhibitions have all been cancelled as the United Kingdom continues to enforce strict social distancing measures but that has not stopped the organisers from delivering great content online. Some of the wonderful FORMAT exhibitions of the past have been transformed into virtual tours, with featured artists including the likes of Brian Griffin, Regine Petersen, John Angerson, Yvette Monahan, Jan Stradtmann, and Max Pinckers. The curatorial team has furthermore taken inspiration from the 1937 Mass Observation project and set up the @massisolationFORMAT initiative that looks to provide a visual record of the crisis as it unfolds on Instagram. You can also re-visit FORMAT19 with a 3D presentation of the festival produced by V21 Artspace and watch videos from the last four biennales on the FORMAT website.

Head On(line) Photo Festival / Sydney, Australia / Digital content available

© Renée C. Byer, from the series Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor

Head On Photo Festival is one of the largest events on the photography calendar. Having already put extraordinary effort into preparing exhibitions and judging award entries, the festival’s director Moshe Rosenzveig has committed to honouring the work done by moving everything online. “Our usual plans for this year’s festival had to be modified at the very last moment within a very short time-frame,” he says. “As we were abruptly forced into social isolation due to COVID-19, it became apparent how important images are to see and understand the surreal world around us. I look forward to delivering the first-ever online photography festival to an entirely new audience. This format enables so many people to enjoy the festival wherever they are, be it in Sydney, in remote areas of Australia, or overseas.” Viewers can enjoy artist talks with Paula Bronstein, Susana Giron, Renée C. Byer, and Astrid-Blazsek-Ayala; workshops exploring everything from curator-artist-gallery relationships to the power of Lightroom; panel discussions about navigating the new world of photography; and over 100 contemporary Australian and international photography exhibitions. All events are online and free of charge.

Krakow Photomonth Festival / Krakow, Poland / Digital content available

© Gregor Kallina, from the series Iron Heart. 2019 exhibitor

The curators at Krakow Photomonth are billing the 18th edition of the festival as “the longest and most innovative ‘Month’ in history”, all under the tagline 21/05 - ??/??. Together they are working on a new festival formula in which the majority of the events they had originally scheduled, such as lectures, meetings, and guided tours, will now take place online. It is their aim to launch the festival on 21 May with a series of live streams and artist meetings. Readers are encouraged to check the website regularly for updates about the exhibitions. “When the threat is finally over and it will be possible to meet “live”, we will invite you to Krakow for a toast”, say the curatorial team. “If not in May then in June, if not in June then in July …”

PHmuseum Online Photobook Festival / Online

Front covers of the books on display in the Online Photobook Festival

With the photography industry significantly shutting down over the past few weeks, many of our colleagues who work independently have had their avenues of exposure completely cut off. That is why we here at PHmuseum have created an Online Photobook Festival showcasing a selection of exciting photobooks. Some of the titles on display include Altered Ocean (Mandy Barker), American Origami (Andres Gonzalez), Andante (Alex Majoli), Buscando a Bolivar (Pietro Paolini), Deceitful Reverence (Igor Pisuk), Finisterrae (Michele Palazzi), Ganga Ma (Giulio Di Sturco), Habibi (Antonio Faccilongo), Human Territoriality (Roger Eberhard), and many, many more. To purchase a book and help our friends navigate these tough times, simply click on the link in the intro text.



Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie / Mannheim, Germany / Digital content available

© Josh Murfitt, from the series A Creative Act

Having opened on 29 February to great acclaim, Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie was forced to close its doors on 17 March. The six thematic exhibitions that together look to explore how photography has come to symbolise the extremes of contemporary society have all been moved online and are available to view courtesy of virtual reality tours. Works by Joan Fontcuberta, Sohrab Hura, Josh Murfitt, Kensuke Koike, Max Pinckers, Bryan Schutmaat, Nick Waplington, and Sherrie Levine all feature. The lecture series focused on the relationship between artistic photography and science has also been cancelled, yet all previous discussions were recorded and can be watched on the YouTube channel of Heidelberg University.

Circulation(s) European Young Photography Festival / Paris, France / Digital content available

© Marie Lukasiewicz

Over the last decade, Circulation(s) festival has evolved into an innovative laboratory of contemporary European creativity and one of the must-attend photography events on the calendar. The event was cancelled on the eve of the official opening following the lockdown measures implemented by the French prime minister. Instead, the festival organisers and all 45 participating artists are collaborating to deliver an epistolary online project in the form of an artistic telegram. From Minsk to Berlin, Paris to Helsinki, and London to Barcelona, photographers are sharing pictures and inviting other artists to share their news to maintain the creative link that unites visual storytellers across Europe. You can follow their updates via the festival’s Instagram page.

Italian Street Photo Festival / Rome, Italy / Digital content available

© Regula Tschumi

Organised by Officine Fotografiche - a recognised non-profit photography association based in Rome – ISPF is the first festival dedicated to street photography in Italy, providing a space for professionals, enthusiasts, and amateurs to investigate the contemporary identity of the medium. The third edition was originally scheduled to be held between 24 and 26 April and was slated to be the largest, richest, and most important in its short history. Since the inevitable cancellation, the curators have decided to bring all the content online. “We will “infect” you with our creativity and enthusiasm and together, along with all of you, we will overcome this hurdle” they write.


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

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

7 minutes

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