30 August 2018

September's Best Photo Festivals

30 August 2018 - Written by Simon Hall

Verzasca FOTO Festival (Switzerland), Organ Vida International Photography Festival (Croatia), PhEST (Italy), and Unseen (Netherlands) are among the highlights on the photography calendar this September, one of the most exciting moments of the year to attend festivals and connect with the professionals of our industry.

Verzasca FOTO Festival / Sonogno, Switzerland / 6 - 9 September

© Tomas Wüthrich, from the series Doomed Paradise – The Last Penan in the Rainforest of Borneo

Set in the small alpine village of Sonogno, Switzerland, Verzasca FOTO is an annual open-air festival that aims to support regional visual arts and promote emerging international photographers by giving them free space to showcase their work and access to different forms of expression.

The theme this year is The Inner Forest, with the exhibiting artists reflecting upon one of the festival’s core visions: nature perceived as a source of creative stimulus. Through a variety of storytelling practices, together they provide a cross section of contemporary photographic research ranging from new documentary to lyrical, ironical, and conceptual narratives. “Their works represent both images of exterior and interior nature: crystallisations of different outlooks grown in diverse contexts” say the curators. “The authors of the outdoor shows conceive the forest – in its multiple dimensions: physical, metaphysical, and experiential – as a territory to explore.” Andrea Eichenberger, Camila Rodrigo, Cecilia Vidal, Derek Man, Eva Lauterlein, Gihan Tubbeh, Ilana Bar, Tomas Wüthrich, Kasia Jackowska, Nathalie Bissig, and Teo Becher are among those exhibiting.

In the supporting events, visitors can enjoy a series of nocturnal projections in the grottos and piazzas of the Verzasca Valley; there will be networking opportunities for artists through workshops and roundtable discussions; and PHmuseum Director, Giuseppe Oliverio is among the guests in attendance, hosting portfolio reviews and announcing a partnership with Verzasca FOTO that will offer one photographer a solo show at next year's festival as part of the PHM 2018 Women Photographers Grant prizes. Further information about the program can be found at

Organ Vida International Photography Festival / Zagreb, Croatia / 10 - 16 September

© Ulla Deventer, from the series Butterflies are Sign of Good Thing

Taking place in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, Organ Vida aims to gather together international young and established contemporary photographers with the common pursuit to ignite conversations about the critical and global socio-political issues. Under the curatorship of Lea Vene and Marina Paulenka, the main exhibition this year explores the theme, Engaged, Active, Aware - Women’s Perspectives Now. “We are facing a situation in which women must fight anew for the rights that had been won long ago” they write. “In the midst of initiatives such as #MeToo and phenomena such as the female gaze, it is necessary to re-examine the current role of photography in representing and articulating women’s experiences, and to critically rethink how digital culture is transforming feminist approaches to the image.” The exhibiting artists include Julia Fullerton-Batten, Nausica Giulia Bianchi, Cemre Yesil and Alice Caracciolo, Gloria Oyarzabal, Ke Peng, Mafalda Rakos, and PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant winner Raphaela Rosella.

Elsewhere, in the supporting exhibitions, Arvida Byström uses her own image to examine issues of identity and sexuality in a wider content; Bojan Mrđenović documents the space alongside the Adriatic Highway showing manifold transformations that have occurred due to the intense growth of tourism; Nina Berman tells the story of a survivor of sex trafficking and child pornography and her struggle to survive and find physical and emotional safety; and courtesy of winning the PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant Organ Vida solo exhibition prize, Ulla Deventer presents her series Butterflies are Sign of Good Thing, which looks at the plight and living conditions of sex workers in Accra, Ghana.

Among the packed program of public events, Anastasia Taylor-Lind will be talking about how the Joop Swart Masterclass influenced her career; a select group of photographers will have a chance to meet invited curators, editors, and other professionals in a series of portfolio reviews; and Laia Abril will host a workshop that aims to provide participants with the tools and strategies to enhance the investigation and construction of their own personal projects. Discover more at

PhEST / Monopoli, Italy / 6 September - 4 November

© Mandy Barker, from the series Soup

Held in the city of Monopoli on the southeastern coast of Italy, PhEST – See Beyond the Sea, is dedicated to photography, cinema, music, and art contaminations from the Mediterranean. The festival was born out of the need to give a voice back to the thousand identities that form the “sea within the lands”, and the need to redefine a new, original imagery. The geographical focus, never limited but open to change and expansion, responds to the natural panorama the eyes perceive from Monopoli and from the Apulia region: that is the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and beyond.

The exhibition program - devised by artistic director, Giovanni Troilo and curator, Arianna Rinaldo - features Patrick Willocq’s My Story is a Story of Hope, the human tale of two communities, French and asylum seekers, who are forced to cohabitate due to events beyond their control; Soup by Mandy Barker, a photographic series depicting the plastic debris suffocating the world’s oceans and causing serious risks to the marine ecosystem; and Edoardo Delille’s commissioned project that focuses on the ports in Bari and Brindisi, two of the most important connection harbors between Eastern Europe and Greece. PHmuseum is proud to support PhEST as a media partner - to learn more, visit

Unseen Amsterdam / Amsterdam, The Netherlands / 21 - 23 September

© Arko Datto, from the series Will my mannequin be home when I return

For three days from 21 through 23 September, Unseen Amsterdam will bring together over 300 emerging and established artists from across the globe to showcase the most significant developments in contemporary photography. In this, the seventh edition, visitors to the showpiece Unseen Fair – a platform connecting artists, curators, collectors and photography enthusiasts – can be inspired by more than 85 boundary-pushing and premiering works. András Ladosci, Marie Clerel, Arko Datto, Awoiska van der Molen, Henk Wildschut, Eva Stenram, Gregory Halpern, Peggy Franck, Paul Bogaers, and Paolo Ventura are among the names on display.

Outside of the Fair, in the supporting public program, artistic director Emilia van Lynden has organised a series of events each designed with the goal of encouraging debate around the social, political, and cultural questions of our time. Among the highlights, Unseen has teamed up with non-profit organisation Project Pressure to raise awareness about the global issue of vanishing glaciers and how artists can play a role in inspiring behavioural change; The Living Room initiative joins influential creatives and professionals worldwide to form a dynamic program of lectures and debates about the future of photography; and situated around the grounds of the Westergasterrein, four separate exhibitions explore a spectrum of thought-provoking themes, including a pop-up show by Futures, the newest photography platform that combines the talent programs of leading photography institutions across Europe. Go to to find out more.

Visa Pour l'Image / Perpignan, France / 1 - 16 September

© Paula Bronstein, from the exhibition Stateless, Stranded and Unwanted: The Rohingya Crisis

From 1 to 16 September, the French-Catalan town of Perpignan is set once again to play host to the year’s biggest celebration of photojournalism, Visa Pour l’Image. Cultural venues and other pop-up spaces across the city will present a collection of exhibitions that aim to draw public attention to the great issues of our time – war and conflict, environmental change, religious extremism, and social phenomena.

Among the highlights, Andrea Bruce looks at the daily lives of communities in India, Vietnam, and Haiti where a lack of access to basic sanitation leads to open defecation and the contamination of water supplies; George Steinmetz captures the spectacle and dizzying scale of the industrialised food production system across the United States; Miquel Dewever-Plana documents a group of miners in Potosí, Bolivia, shadowing them through the cramped, narrow tunnels and following their traditional rituals and family life; Paula Bronstein reports on the discrimination and persecution of the Rohingya community, conveying their situation in both Myanmar and Bangladesh; and John Wessels examines how the stifling political climate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to impact the lives of millions in the main cities.

Visitors can also enjoy a series of evening screenings to be held in the medieval enclosure of Campo Santo. Beginning at 9.30 pm on Monday 3 September, the program will present a chronological review of the year’s news stories, two months at a time. This is followed by reports and features on contemporary society, stories that have been suppressed by mainstream media, plus coverage on the state of the world today. A series of talks, panel discussions, educational initiatives, and awards ceremonies round up the events. To learn more, visit

Landskrona Foto Festival / Landskrona, Sweden / 14 - 23 September

© Rania Matar, from the exhibition A Selection of Works

Billed as the Home of Photography in Scandinavia, Landskrona Foto has developed into a popular meeting place for photography professionals: a platform where visitors can enjoy the works of both renowned documentary photographers and upcoming talents in the same space. Directed for the third year running by Jenny Nordquist and Christian Caujolle, the 2018 edition investigates the fateful issues that recur in the history of humankind. “How much can our planet withstand? What is the effect of refugee flows?” they ask. “There are photographers here who highlight power, identity and people’s different ages. Sometimes with humour and curiosity – the playfulness that photography allows.”

In the exhibition line-up, Rania Matar depicts human vulnerability during periods of transition in the lives of women and children; Gideon Mendel documents floods in Britain and India, putting faces to the statistics and revealing how devastation affects societies and individuals; Weronika Gęsicka manipulates a series of family portraits, blurring the boundaries between reality, fantasy and surrealism and thereby commenting on the image of the family and how we create our memories; and Anna Ehrenstein explores how aesthetic ideals are changed in our commercial times when possibilities to make radical changes to our appearance are increasingly available.

Beyond the individual shows, Landskrona Foto has kept with the tradition of presenting the photography of another country in a major group exhibition – this year it is the turn of Chile. Co-curated by Caujolle and Rodrigo Gomes Riviera, the artistic leader of the Valparaiso International Photography Festival, the show displays the work of Sergio Larrain along with the works of six fellow Chilean photographers. A series of artist talks, portfolio reviews, guided tours, and workshops round up the public offering. Further information can be found at

Photoville / New York, United States / 13 - 23 September

© Griselda San Martin, from the series The Wall

Returning for a seventh year, in the picturesque location of Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, Photoville is set once again to create an immersive photography village populated by 65 plus shipping containers repurposed as mini gallery spaces. The festival looks to provide a unique opportunity to engage with diverse audiences, with immersion and interactivity at the heart of what makes the event so popular with its visitors.

Celebrating photographic storytelling in all its forms, the exhibition program includes Griselda San Martin’s documentary project, The Wall about Friendship Park, a stretch of the U.S. - Mexico border where families meet to share intimate moments through the metal fence that separates them; Too Far to Walk by Lori Hawkins, a story of the women of West Pokot in northern Kenya and their struggle to stay alive and survive childbirth; a group show of PDN editors’ 2018 selection of 30 emerging photographers who represent a variety of styles and genres; Sara Bennett’s The Bedroom Project, which comprises portraits of 17 formerly incarcerated women lifers in their current bedrooms; and Her Take: (Re)Thinking Masculinity, the response by the seven women photographers of VII Photo Agency to the contemporary debate about gender, power and representation.

Working with more than 100 curatorial partners, Photoville will also offer a varied program of night-time projections, workshops led by some of the most talented working photographers in the industry, an education day for New York City middle and high-school students, panel discussions and talks presented next door at the New Dock School, a community photo book store run by Red Hook Editions, and a beer garden with a range of food vendors. More details can be found at

Getxophoto / Getxo, Spain / 5 - 30 September

© Gohar Dashti, from the series Gohar Dashti

Located on the coast of the Basque Country in Spain, GETXOPHOTO is a thematic festival that proposes an open dialogue with visitors through images presented in outdoor exhibitions in unconventional public spaces. Curated this year by PHM 2018 Grant judge Monica Allende under the theme, Post-conflict: Reframing the Dialogue, the works on show will tackle ecological, technological, political and human conflicts and will reflect upon the meaning, consequences and reconstruction of dialogue in post-conflict periods. “We are aiming to explore not just the external post conflict struggles between characters and characters with nature and society, but also looking into internal conflicts affecting peoples within themselves and their surroundings” writes Allende. Some of the works on display include Markel Redondo’s documentation of the construction crisis in Spain; Luca Locatelli’s investigation into the green energy revolution in Germany; Dragana Jurišić’s exploration of the breakup of Yugoslavia; Josh Begley’s examination of the border between the United States and Mexico; and Gohar Dashti’s observation of the relationship between human beings and landscape.

Away from the 20 individual and collective exhibitions, there are also a number of educational initiatives that aim to establish a closer collaborative relationship between photographers and cultural institutions in the area. Standout events here include an Experimental Lab run by Leon Kirchlechner and Simon Karlstetter, the artistic directors of Der Greif, which looks at how to work with an image in the digital age; conversations in a shared space for reflection on images and the profession; and, in a new addition to the festival, a bed cinema. To find out more, visit



Festival Images Vevey / Vevey, Switzerland / 8 - 30 September

61 projects from 58 artists of 19 countries all responding to one theme: Extravaganza. Out of the Ordinary – that is what visitors to the 2018 edition of Festival Images Vevey can discover. By showcasing established artists next to young talent, the program looks to satisfy the curiosity of specialists and the general public, with audiences invited to experience images in a novel way through out-of-the-ordinary installations and scenography. The main exhibitions feature the work of Philippe Durand, Erik Kessels, Cristina de Middel, Emeric Lhuisset, and Lorenzo Vitturi.


Tbilisi Photo Festival / Tbilisi, Georgia / 13 - 20 September

For its 9th edition, Tbilisi Photo Festival - the premier showcase for regional and international photography in the Caucasus - is set to present a multimedia project focusing on the 10th anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. The installation will bring together more than 200 images from a collection of leading war photographers who documented the conflict including Yuri Kozyrev, Ron Haviv, Bruno Stevenes, Thomas Dworzak, Lionel Charrier, Olivier Laban-Mattei, Justyna Mielnikiewicz, and Michael Robinson Chavez.


Paraty em Foco / Paraty, Brazil / 19 - 23 September

Under the artistic direction of Giancarlo Mecarelli and Enrico Elias, Paraty em Foco has emerged as an important hub for photography in South America, presenting exhibitions and outdoor installations that work in harmony with the cultural heritage of colonial Paraty, Brazil. The artists on display this year look to open a dialogue around the active role of utopias and dystopias in contemporary society, with João Pina, Maureen Bisilliat, Marcelo Greco, Marcelo Greco, and Patricia Newcomer among those participating.


BredaPhoto / Breda, The Netherlands / 5 September - 21 October

The biannual BredaPhoto festival has emerged as one of the largest photography events in The Netherlands, with each edition exploring a relevant social theme. The exhibitions and supporting program this year respond to the title To Infinity and Beyond, focusing on the possibilities and impact of ongoing advancement in the fields of technology and science. The 50 plus exhibitions together reveal the opportunities, dangers, and dilemmas of our progress, and includes work by Alba Zari, Daesung Lee, David Fathi, Laura El-Tantawy, Mandy Barker, Mathieu Asselin, Osborne Macharia, and Sheng Wen Lo.


Brighton Photo Biennial / Brighton, United Kingdom / 28 September - 28 October

Brighton Photo Biennial is one of the leading curated photography festivals in the United Kingdom, presenting a program of exhibitions and events for professionals, enthusiasts, students, and families alike. The theme for this, the eight edition, is A New Europe. “The United Kingdom’s status in the European Union may be changing, however, geographically Britain will remain part of Europe” writes curator Shoair Mavlian. “At this transitional point, we will use photography to examine our current state of flux, reflecting on our relationship with Europe and the geographies of the United Kingdom.”


European Month of Photography Berlin / Berlin, Germany / 28 September - 31 October

The European Month of Photography Berlin – Germany’s largest photography festival – is a bi-annual event showcasing the entire spectrum of historical and contemporary photography. This year, more than 120 exhibitions will be on display, with formats ranging from outdoor shows and large museum installations to individual and group presentations in independent gallery spaces and cultural institutions. Wolfgang Tillmans, Gerhard Richter, Martin Parr, and Rineke Dijkstra are among many of the renowned names on view.


Singapore International Photography Festival / Singapore / 6 September - 9 December

The Singapore International Photography Festival provides a platform for emerging Southeast Asian artists to exhibit their work alongside more established, international practitioners at galleries and museums across Singapore. The primary shows include Still (Laura Letinsky), Incognito: The Eye in Search (Rinko Kawauchi, Tomoko Sawada, Yuki Onodera), and Between Love and Death: Diary of Nobuyoshi Araki (Nobuyoshi Araki).


Cortona On The Move / Cortona, Italy / 12 July - 30 September

Set in the heart of Tuscany, Italy, Cortona On The Move is a stage for the celebration of contemporary photography, continually bringing new creative talents and novel forms of visual communication to the forefront. Under the artistic direction of Arianna Rinaldo, the festival provides a platform for the exchange of ideas between field experts and a space to discover work which represents the ongoing evolution of the photographic language. The festival’s 2018 focus is on female photographers, with exhibitors including Bieke Depoorter, Debi Cornwall, Jennifer Greenburg, Sanne De Wilde, and Poulomi Basu.


Les Rencontres de la Photographie / Arles, France / 2 July - 23 September

Since 1970, Les Rencontres de la Photographie has been a major influence in disseminating the best of world photography and playing the role of a springboard for contemporary creative talents. Through an eclectic combination of exhibitions and supporting events hosted by Arles’ unique heritage sites, the 2018 edition invites viewers on a metaphorical journey across space and time. “With the artist’s eye as our aid, and the recent past as our measuring stick, we can discover the near future, and shed some light on the big questions of society today” writes director, Sam Stourdzé. The list of exhibitors features Jonas Bendiksen, Matthieu Gafsou, Paul Graham, Cristina de Middel, and Yingguang Guo.


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Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

22 minutes

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