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03 September 2020

September's Best Photo Festivals

03 September 2020 - Written by Simon Hall

As summer moves into autumn, the photography calendar is full of exciting festivals, including industry favourites GETXOPHOTO (Spain), Verzasca FOTO Festival (Switzerland), and Organ Vida Festival (Croatia). Find out what exhibitions and supporting events they have in store.

GETXOPHOTO / Getxo, Spain / 3 - 27 September

© Silvia Rosi, from the series Encounter. 2020 exhibitor

Moving into its 14th edition this year, GETXOPHOTO aims to bring together different proposals from photographers and visual storytellers from all over the world, promoting contemporary conversations around some of the pressing concerns of our time. Under the curatorship of Jon Uriarte for the first time, the festival will continue in its tradition of keeping an open dialogue with its visitors by presenting exhibitions in public places and unconventional cultural spaces that seek to encourage free debate and reflection.

The programming in 2020 will be articulated around the theme To the streets!. “The street has taken on a fundamental role in contemporary global society,” writes Uriarte. “The public space – both physical and online – lives in constant resistance to its privatisation and homogenisation by trying to maintain a place where people can meet, play, propose, protest, and debate ideas that respond to the multiple challenges and concerns we face today. Communities displaced by key issues such as the consequences of the climate emergency, local and global political conflicts, economic crises, and identity struggles coincide in the public space. At the same time, the streets are claimed as the essential place to generate new relationships and provoke new cultural and social possibilities. We want to explore the online and physical public space as an updated place of protest; as an area to be reclaimed by marginalised people, as a place of encounter and mutual recognition, and as a field for experimentation, play and celebration.”

There are 19 exhibitions set to be on view responding to these ideas. Among the highlights of the program, Thaddé Comar will display his work that examines the uprising and resistance of the Hong Kong democratic movement during the political transformation of the former English colony; Randa Maroufi will present her visual investigation into the self-deception and denial that is so prevalent in Poland where EU standards are considered radical; and, courtesy of the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant prizes, Silvia Rosi will showcase her series that explores new forms of storytelling that expand the aesthetics of the West African studio portrait through the use of props and backdrops. Interlaced alongside these shows are a series of workshops, artist talks, and education initiatives designed to help visitors approach the content of the festival more broadly. Go to getxophoto.com/en for more information.


Verzasca FOTO Festival / Sonogno, Switzerland / 5 September - 5 November

© Vincent Desailly. 2020 exhibitor as part of the PHmuseum projection

Set in the picturesque village of Sonogno in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, Verzasca FOTO is an open-air festival that invites artists working with humanistic and conceptual approaches to interact with the local territory by inserting their work into outdoor settings and deep within the forests of the Verzasca Valley. On the occasion of the seventh edition of the festival, the curators wish to reiterate their goal of creating new methods of visual storytelling that can heighten the reach of the medium and promoting dialogues concerning the protection of woodland sites. “Nowadays, the global awareness regarding the importance of preserving forests and sowing new trees is the response to the current climate emergency,” reads the curatorial statement. “Today as yesterday, we are the ones who need the forests, not the other way around. The forest can be a place of solitude but also a vital meeting place. Underground, the roots of different trees unite, communicating and feeding each other. We want the same to happen above it, through the confluence of people from different cultures and sensibilities.” The artists on display responding to this concept include Alexandra Baumgartner, Anton Polyakov, Diego Moreno, Elly Heise, Florence Goupil, Giorgio Negro, Graziella Antonini, Luca Zanetti, Olivia Heussler, Paz Olivares Droguett, Tomaso Clavarino, and Yorgos Yatromanolakis.

The supporting program this year offers a wealth of opportunity for visitors to network and socialise throughout the duration of the festival. Stand out events include nocturnal screenings in the grottos and piazzas of the Verzasca Valley, free portfolio reviews with industry leaders, and a series of project presentations and roundtables. The PHmuseum team will also be hosting a special projection featuring the work of all 37 finalists of the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant. Further information can be found at verzascafoto.com.


Organ Vida Festival / Zagreb, Croatia / 2 September - 4 October

© Liza Ambrossio, from the series Blood Orange. 2020 exhibitor

Held in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, Organ Vida Festival aims to bring together international young contemporary artists with the common goal of advancing the art and practice of photography and igniting conversations about critical and global socio-political issues. Led by a curatorial collective of five independent professionals, namely Barbara Gregov, Lovro Japundžić, Klara Petrović, Luja Šimunović, and Lea Vene, the festival this year has taken the theme Hesitant Images and looks to focus on the materiality of images and on works that discuss and expand the understanding of representation. “The hesitancy in the title arises from a specific form of the intersection of facts and fiction,” explain the curators. “The emphasis is on images that count upon their own constructed and fabricated nature, using artistic intervention to semantically complicate and compound and bring to light precisely those processes that condition and/or lead to its commodification, but without depriving us of fantasy. We are interested in images that are political primarily in terms of how, rather than what, they represent.”

In the main exhibition program, Martha Frieda Friedel goes in search of beauty and what beauty can still be in a modern neoliberal society; Liza Ambrossio explores her personal feelings of being uprooted and the need to connect with the deepest origins of humanity; Shelli Weiler borrows freely from the visual languages of drag and cinematography to examine the nuances of female intervention unto domestic space; Oskar Schmidt takes a look at the possibilities and linguistics of the virtual digital landscape that photography is now inextricably associated with; and Samar Al Summary photographs the traces that people have left of themselves in hegemonic spaces in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Marko Gutic Mizimakov, Zhao Qian, Indre Urbonaite, Emilio Vavarella, and Alba Zari are also among the names to feature while the curatorial team has further organised three site-specific exhibitions and installations by Meriem Bennani, Filip Custic, and Victoria Sin. To find out more, visit organvida.com/festival.


Landskrona Foto Festival / Landskrona, Sweden / 4 - 20 September

© Noemie Goudal. 2020 exhibitor

Billed as the Home of Photography in Scandinavia, Landskrona Foto has developed into a popular meeting place for photography professionals; a platform where the established and the experimental come together and stimulate the public’s understanding of photography and its value to society. The artistic direction of this year’s festival is being led by independent photography consultant and creative producer Monica Allende. “As the curator I hope to help incite social debate and engagement with an embracing and relatable program,” she writes. “I want to expand the photography discourse by including multidisciplinary visual narratives and using digital platforms.”

Among the work featured in the exhibition line-up, Roger Eberhard explores the often arbitrary and changeable nature of borders and how they have a major impact on our lives; Jessica Pettway examines the enticing aesthetics of plastic packaging and how that alienates consumers from the agricultural processes behind food production; Susan Meiselas showcases a collection of work from her extensive documentary archive covering the region of Kurdistan; and Sim Chi Yin exposes hidden traces of the conflict that arose between British colonial powers and the Malaysian left in the mid-twentieth Century. Edward Burtynsky, Simon Norfolk, Noémie Goudal, Peter Funch, and Klaus Thymann also come together in a group exhibition for Project Pressure that responds to the theme of Meltdown. Each of the five works on display has been produced in collaboration with climate scientists and renowned institutions such as the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Beyond the exhibitions, Landskrona Foto has also organised a supporting program that will take place entirely online. The highlights include a series of talks chaired by Monica Allende, Q and A sessions with select artists, photobook presentations, and portfolio reviews hosted by 46 international experts. To book a review or to simply learn more about the festival’s events, visit landskronafoto.org/en.


Photoville / New York City, United States / 17 September – 29 November

© Kiana Hayeri, from the series Promises Written on the Ice, Left in the Sun

Returning for a ninth 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 realise Photoville 2020 and the festival is set to present over 60 outdoor exhibitions across New York City and present a full slate of free online programming.

A short sample of the extraordinary work on display includes Sofie Vasquez’s black and white documentary series about the independent wrestling scene and culture in the South Bronx; Daveed Baptiste’s examination of the social dynamics within Haitian-American identity; Pablo Delano’s conceptual art installation that explores the fraught relationship between the United States and its modern-day colony Puerto Rico; Hannah Reyes Morales’ visual investigation into how technology and social media have put the power to define beauty in the hands of the people; and Kiana Hayeri’s tribute to several women in Afghanistan, each of whom has achieved a level of recognition and paid a price for breaking from the crowd. The likes of Jackie Molloy, Pablo Albarenga, Salvador Espinoza, Wayne Lawrence, Erin Lefevre, Ilvy Njiokiktjien, Stephen Obisanya, Nina Robinson, and Sara Naomi Lewkowicz are also on the billing with solo exhibitions.

Elsewhere, in the stand out group shows, Frontlines in Focus highlights the uprisings shaking our world this year and the independent imagemakers whose roles are especially vital during this time of collective isolation; Picking Up NYC offers a glimpse into the New York City Department of Sanitation’s rich history of heroism; and The Journal showcases work by more than 400 Women Photograph members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and quarantines. United Photo Industries has also organised a collection of talks and workshops that will be available from the appropriately socially-distanced comfort of your own home. They will be sharing live events hosted by Leica, National Geographic, The New York Times, Adobe, Aperture, International Center of Photography, and more, plus pre-recorded family activities and other special educational opportunities. All the information is on photoville.nyc.

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ALSO OPEN THIS MONTH:

PhEST - See Beyond the Sea / Monopoli, Italy / 7 August - 1 November

Taking place 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. This year’s edition will run through 1 November with an exhibition line-up that includes Luca Locatelli's acclaimed project that portrays some of the most promising high-tech agro farming systems in the world; Ciril Jazbec's series focused on the incredible scale and real impact of the ingenious ice stupa movement in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas; Dillon Marsh's CGI models that depict accurately scaled ice models within typical human environments; and Jacob Balzani Lööv's work that looks at how a plane crash in the Tyrrhenian Sea 40 years ago forever altered the identity of a small island.

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Cortona On The Move / Cortona, Italy / 31 July - 27 September

International photography festival Cortona On The Move has established itself as one of the world’s most dynamic centres 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. This year's edition is dedicated entirely to covering COVID-19, with Alex Majoli, Andrea Frazzetta, Nanna Heitmann, Gaia Squarci, Simon Norfolk, Gideon Mendel, Michele Spatari, Mo Scarpelli, Silvia Bigi, and Serena Vittorini among the showcased names. The festival is also currently accepting bookings for a series of portfolio reviews with industry experts on 25 and 26 September.

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Visa Pour l'Image / Perpignan, France / 29 August - 27 September

The scenic French-Catalan town of Perpignan has once again been transformed into the stage for the year's biggest celebration of photojournalism: Visa Pour l'Image. While this edition is different and features a reduced program, the festival remains steadfast in its desire to continue supporting freedom of expression and work produced by photographers covering and communicating news stories and information. A selection of the standout work on display this year includes Victor Moriyama’s investigation into how deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has gradually become more severe; Ian Willms’ exploration into Canada’s slow motion cultural genocide; James Whitlow Delano’s examination of the environmental plague of plastic waste; and Nicole Tung’s portrayal of young protestors in Hong Kong.

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Festival Images Vevey / Vevey, Switzerland / 5 - 27 September

Set on the banks of Lake Geneva in the shadows of the Swiss Alps, Festival Images Vevey takes advantage of its breathtaking location by turning the town into an open-air stage for photography. Featuring established artists next to young talent, the festival 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 theme this year is Unexpected. The Chance of things and the main exhibition program features Refik Anadol, Beni Bischof, Christian Boltanski, Juno Calypso, Alain Bublex, Vincent Jendly, and Jack Latham.

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Athens Photo Festival / Athens, Greece / 16 September - 15 November

Held exclusively at the Benaki Museum, Athens Photo Festival seeks to reflect upon the diversity of the photographic medium and create opportunities for international exchange. The festival has developed into a critical space where the impact of our ever-changing visual culture can be raised and discussed, placing a focus on fostering an understanding of contemporary culture and society through visual storytelling in all its forms. The exhibition program this year is comprised of both solo and group shows, presenting a wide variety of works, ranging from fine art and conceptual to documentary and photojournalism, photo-based installations, performance, interactive and multimedia works.

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BredaPhoto / Breda, The Netherlands / 9 September - 25 October

Throughout the last decade, BredaPhoto has emerged as one of the largest photography events in the Netherlands, dedicated to showcasing stories that inspire, move, confront, and ultimately raise new questions and demonstrate that photography is the artistic medium that stands at the heart of society. The central theme for the 2020 edition is The best of times, the worst of times, a title inspired by the opening paragraph of the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. “Change is a constant in history. But it is clear the pace of social, cultural, and political change is now very fast,” declare the curators in their editorial statement. “What is the world of tomorrow going to look like? No-one knows. This uncertainty can be frightening but it also offers opportunities: for more equality and a more consciousness approach to how we interact with our planet.” There are over 50 photographers displaying work that confronts these ideas, among which are Luis Cobelo, Andrew Esiebo, Lyu Geer, Xu Guanyu, Tanya Habjouqa, Felipe Jácome, Ed Kashi, Erik Kessels, Katrin Koenning, and Laurence Rasti.

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Kyotographie / Kyoto, Japan / 19 September - 18 October

Set against the backdrop of stunning Kyoto, 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 historical venues as well as modern cultural 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. Elsa Leydier, Omar Victor Diop, Pierre-Elie de Pibrac, Atsushi Fukushima, Ryosuke Toyama, Wing Shya, Marie Liesse, and Kai Fusayoshi are the exhibitors this year.

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Fotofestival Schiedam / Schiedam, The Netherlands / 3 – 20 September

Fotofestival Schiedam is an annual photo manifestation that takes place across three weekends in September with exhibitions and activities showing current and actual developments in photography. The 2020 edition is based on the theme Transitions and will look to explore how the photographic medium increasingly shapes and colours the way we perceive our reality. Among the exhibition highlights, Ilvy Njiokiktjien documents the generation of South Africans born after the abolition of apartheid; Sarah Maple creates staged photographs based around the language used during the Brexit campaign; and Daniel Martinus explores the consequences of the increasing technological possibilities of artificial intelligence.

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Noorderlicht International Photo Festival / The Netherlands / 4 July - 20 September

Under the curatorship of Robert Jan Verhagen, the 27th edition of Noorderlicht International Photography Festival is titled Generation Z and seeks to examine the mindset and energy of the youngest generation of world citizens, born after 1995. What is their place in society? How do they see their future? What are their ambitions? By tapping into these questions – the hopes and fears of Generation Z – Noorderlicht aims to provide insights into their young adult world. “If one thing is clear to this generation it’s this: the current system no longer suffices,” declare the curatorial team. “They collectively take to the streets to bring about change and fight hand in hand for a new balance between the forces that must guarantee the future of this planet. The selected artists in this festival show a generation focusing on fundamental emancipation processes.” Elena Aya Bundurakis, Jan Stradtmann, Madeline Swainhart, Marie Lukasiewicz, Sebastian Steveniers, Viktor Naumovski, and Sheng-Wen Lo are among the names on display.

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Helsinki Photo Festival / Helsinki, Finland / 7 July - 30 September

The Helsinki Photo Festival pushes the boundaries photography exploration in Finland and brings the artistic medium of storytelling back on the streets. Amidst the wave of cancellation of cultural events sweeping the cultural scene all over the world, HPF moved forward and continues to build its program for the festival this summer. For a period of twelve weeks, between 7 July and 30 September, the event will feature artist-talks, workshops, seminars, portfolio reviews, photo walks, and exhibitions inviting all photo enthusiasts of any age to experience extraordinary innovative images taken by Nordic and international photographers.

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La Gacilly Photo Festival / La Gacilly, France / 1 July - 31 October

Set in the heart of the rural environment of Brittany, France, La Gacilly Photo Festival has forged an international reputation on its commitment to exploring the great social and environmental challenges facing society today. Festival-goers this year can discover three outdoor free-to-access exhibition routes dedicated to the themes Climate and Photography, Viva Latina!, and Preserving Biodiversity. This program brings together 18 shows, the highlights of which include Luisa Dörr’s work portraying the Bolivian women who adopt the very masculine codes of wrestling to empower fellow women in their community and Carolina Arantes’ candid series offering a close-up view of the damage caused by huge fires and widespread deforestation in the Amazon.

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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

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