07 October 2021

The Best Photography Festivals Open this October

07 October 2021 - Written by Simon Hall

The festivals continue to come thick and fast as the end of 2021 draws closer. Zoom Photo Festival Saguenay (Canada) joins the likes of Kyotographie (Japan), PhEST (Italy), and Photoville (United States) in welcoming visitors this month. Learn what exhibitions and supporting events they have lined up.

Zoom Photo Festival Saguenay / Saguenay, Canada / 6 - 24 October

© Luis Tato, from the series Locusts Invasion in East Africa. 2021 exhibitor.

Founded in 2010 by the non-profit organization International Photo Media Group, Zoom Photo Festival is the sole event in Canada dedicated to the celebration of photojournalism. There are more than 20 major exhibitions on display this year, with each proposing a new perspective on many of today’s important social issues. Among them, Frédéric Noy looks at how myriad problems including illegal fishing and commercial sand mining are slowly killing Lake Victoria and its lakeside communities in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya; Argus Paul Estabrook uses his camera to draw a conceptual photographic line that traces his journey through the border towns directly south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone; Roger LeMoyne documents traditional miners working in the towns of Marmato and Ségovia in the Medellín region of Colombia who are caught up in a legal battle Canadian mining company Gran Colombia Gold; Luis Tato looks at how severe weather anomalies linked to a climate-change-driven event in the Indian Ocean have created ideal conditions for locust breeding in East Africa; and Jeremy Lempin explores the use of animal-assisted therapy in clinical environments and palliative care.

Elsewhere, in other standout exhibitions, the 2021 World Press Photo traveling exhibition brings into focus the biggest news stories from the past 12 months, and On the Tip of the Toes Foundation presents a series of images showcasing the wild outdoor adventures they organize for young people with cancer in a bid to raise their self-esteem. To learn more about the full program, visit

Kyotographie / Kyoto, Japan / 18 September - 17 October

© Marguerite Bornhauser, from the series Moisson Rouge. 2021 exhibitor.

Kyotographie is one of the truly international artistic events held in Japan, founded upon a vision of fostering an appreciation of photography as a medium and art form. In a varied and balanced program, valuable collections and works by renowned visual storytellers are exhibited in elegant, historical buildings as well as modern architectural spaces. The shows are spread across the city, staged creatively outside of the traditional white cube gallery format and in harmony with the natural and cultural settings in which they will be displayed.

The theme for this, the eighth edition, is Echo. “In 2021, we experienced the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, this coincides with the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster”, write the curators. “These tragic events and our personal circumstances have created distinctive echoes in our lives. With our present moment assembled from fragments both understood and imposed, the past decade has been a learning experience for the individual and the human species. Considering that life and memory mirror each other, photography becomes the expression that ultimately echoes our times. For the 9th edition, we invite artists using a variety of mediums to share their intimate reflections. We hope sharing these creations and remembering the stories connected to them will pay tribute to the dignity of those represented and share our belief in the power of Humanity.” Erwin Olaf, Yingfei Liang, David Shrigley, Thomas Dhellemmes, Yuna Yagi, Richard Collasse, Kazuma Obara, and Ngadi Smart are among the exhibitors exploring this conceptual idea.

The public program this year is packed with opportunities for learning, professional development, collaboration, and self-expression. In the standout events, Ryukoku University Junior College professor Mayoko Kurokawa and Kazuma Obara will host a talk on the impact and resilience of "ambiguous losses” caused by the earthquake, Rinko Kawauchi is putting on an exhibition and sale of six collotype prints from her Early Works 1997 portfolio, produced using the collotype printing process; and a host of leading professionals in the industry will be making guest appearances as portfolio reviewers. For further information, visit



MIA – Milan Image Art Fair / Milan, Italy / 7 - 10 October

Italy's most important photography art fair directed by Fabio and Lorenza Castelli is back with in-person events after the cancellation of the 2020 edition. The Main Section that gives life to the fair will this year feature more than 90 galleries from across Italy and the world, with exhibitors flying in from such far-flung places as Switzerland, The Netherlands, France, United States, Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Montenegro, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Norway, and Turkey. Among the other highlights is a new section titled Beyond Photography – Dialogue that is reserved for galleries showcasing exhibitions that represent a bridge between photography and another single work realized with other media such as sculpture or installation. A special place will again be given to the special Art and Science branch that is aimed at investigating the relationship between art photography and the different facets of science thanks to a collaboration with the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University. Three in-depth talks will also be organized to look at the relationship between literature and photography disciplines that seem apparently distant, but that are united by the desire to create and tell stories.


Photobook Week Aarhus / Aarhus, Denmark / 14 - 17 October

After looking at the themes of Flatness in 2019 and Seriality in 2020, Photobook Week Aarhus will this year focus on Movement and Transition. Taking these keywords literally as well as metaphorically, the program of exhibitions and talks will embrace contemporary issues such as migration, globalization, and post-colonial thinking to highlight their role as sources of inspiration. Genres such as multiples, magazines, and company books will be just as important as photographic publications, and the festival will look to highlight book production in the Caribbean region, in Greenland, and in Portugal. Additionally, an Open Book Market will feature international publishers, and the results of an open call for self-publishers. The organizers are envisioning Photobook Week Aarhus 2021 as an open and inclusive event that also underlines the importance of the library as a space of contemplation, concentration, and creativity: a place where the printed page is in movement and transition, where the book can shift and flicker between a source of knowledge on the one hand, and a material support for artistic practice on the other.


PhEST - See Beyond the Sea / Monopoli, Italy / 6 August - 1 November

Held in the small city of Monopoli in Puglia on the southeastern coast of Italy, PhEST - See Beyond the Sea is dedicated to the exposure of photography, cinema, music, and art expressions from the Mediterranean. The festival was born in 2016 out of the need to give a voice back to the thousands of identities that form the “sea within the lands”, and a growing desire to define new, original imagery in the region. This year’s edition is set to run through 1 November with an exhibition line-up that includes Paola De Grenet's portrayal of people as a means to eliminate the stigmas sometimes associated with diversity; Yufan Lu's exploration into the mechanisms behind cosmetic surgery in China as an abstract therapy for self-body shaming; and Nancy Floyd's visual calendar of her life that reflects upon the shared experiences of her generation.


Noorderlicht Photo Festival / Groningen, The Netherlands / 7 August – 28 November

With the theme The Makeable Mind, the Noorderlicht International Photo Festival 2021 explores the relationship between visual culture and reality: how is our thinking guided by a rampant image culture, unprecedented technological possibilities, and lightning-fast internet connections? Departing from photography, the 28th edition focuses on the entire spectrum of the image, both analogue and digital: from traditional photography to digital and interactive images, internet glitches, machine learning, virtual reality, street guerrilla actions, performances, sound installations, and deep fakes. The list of exhibitors features the likes of Alfonso Almendros, Elena Efeoglou, Ilona Szwarc, Joel Jimenez, Santiago Martinelli, Rick Pushinsky, Diego Moreno, and Sheung Yiu.


Photoville / New York City, United States / 18 September – 1 December

Returning for a tenth year under the directorship of United Photo Industries, Photoville exists to amplify the voices of visual storytellers and connect them to a worldwide diverse audience, with immersion and interactivity at the heart of what makes the event so successful and popular with visitors. Over 100 curatorial partners have come together to realize Photoville 2021 and the festival is set to present over 60 outdoor exhibitions across New York City. A sample of the extraordinary work on display includes Pat Kane’s documentary series focusing on how Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories of Northern Canada are moving towards meaningful self-determination by resetting the past; Hannah Reyes Morales’ moving exploration into how caregivers prepare children for sleep in environments fraught with hazard while highlighting the unique role the lullaby plays in placemaking; and Irma Bohórquez-Geisler’s portrayal of the daily life within the local Mexican-American and Mexican-immigrant communities from within New York City.


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

9 minutes

Support PhMuseum Journalism

Since 2012 PhMuseum's articles have always been free and without ads. Every year we work to keep you informed and invite you to discover the work of hundreds of photographers. If you enjoy reading us, this can be a nice way to give back and support our independent organisation, granting us more means to increase the quality and number of contents. Thank you!