02 September 2021

The Best Photography Festivals Open this September

02 September 2021 - Written by Simon Hall

As summer moves into autumn, the photography calendar is full of exciting festivals, including the first edition of our own PhMuseum Days (Italy) and industry favorites GETXOPHOTO (Spain) and Verzasca FOTO Festival (Switzerland). Find out what exhibitions and supporting events they have in store.

PhMuseum Days 2021 / Bologna, Italy / 23 - 26 September

© Yuan Yao Yuan. 2021 exhibitor.

From 23rd to 26th September, the inaugural edition of PhMuseum Days will take place at the DumBO space in Bologna, Italy. The festival’s programming will center around the theme A New Beginning, chosen because it represents first the dawn of a new adventure for PhMuseum, and second, a perfect occasion to rethink the decade that lies ahead and how we as a society can face the important challenges that it will bring. From collaboration, equality, and sustainability to social justice, innovation, and technology, all the works on display look to – in some way – inspire constructive reflections upon the issues that characterize our present and near future.

There are a total of nine exhibitions for visitors to enjoy, seven of which are dedicated solo shows including three selected through an open call earlier this year. Among the highlights, Ligia Popławska explores the relatively new concept of Solastalgia that is used to understand the implications of ecosystem loss on our mental and emotional health; Samuel Fordham meditates on long-distance relationships kept alive thanks to the use of technology in a world in which our presence is increasingly characterized by two-dimensional images; Fabiola Cedillo observes how Human Assisted Reproduction Techniques (TRHAs) have brought about changes in family structures and created new forms of social bonds; and Alejandro Chaskielberg documents his time spent in the Argentine wilderness with his daughter and how they remained in contact with the world thanks to technology. There is also a special exhibition of the dummies and books created by the 10 participants of our first international photobook masterclass that was led by Witty Books’ publisher Tommaso Parrillo and designer Federico Barbon. These publications will be on display near the Publishers Hub, the festival’s book fair.

In the supporting events, a select group of industry experts including curators, photo editors, and book publishers will be offering 25-minute private portfolio review sessions and American author Jason Fulford is hosting a three-day editing workshop in which he and the participants will look to make sense of 2,500 images submitted to the PhMuseum 2021 Mobile Photography Prize. You can learn more about all the initiatives by visiting Tickets can be purchased via, with both weekend passes and daily passes are available).

GETXOPHOTO / Getxo, Spain / 2 - 26 September

© Juliana Gómez Quijano, from the series Las Dos Hebras (The Two Strands). 2021 exhibitor.

Marking its 15th anniversary 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 second time, the festival will continue in its tradition of keeping an open dialogue with its visitors by presenting exhibitions and installations in public places and unconventional cultural spaces that seek to encourage free debate and reflection.

The programming in this edition responds to the theme To Share. “The idea of solidarity based on generosity and integration that presupposes hierarchies between communities is being replaced by movements that call for horizontal, respectful forms of movement, coexistence and celebration of difference”, writes Uriarte in his curatorial statement. “A complex scenario in which the liberalization of information on the Internet has fostered polarization, focusing the public debate on the limits of freedom of expression and surveillance capitalism. In a world governed by the individual accumulation of goods, the fear of the other in a context shaken by a global pandemic – which accentuates distances, moreover – the right, the need, and the responsibility to share things take on vital relevance.”

There are 22 exhibitions set to be on view exploring the new meaning this idea of sharing has acquired. As part of this program, River Claure will showcase his visual research into how the foreign photographic gaze has long marked the way in which Bolivians imagine their own country and their own identity; Eleonora Agostini will present her latest series that represents domestic life as a theatre of the absurd and the extraordinary made up of anti-monumental structures and actions; and, courtesy of the PhMuseum 2021 Photography Grant prizes, Juliana Gómez Quijano will display her long-term work bringing together molecular diagnostic images of her sister and herself with archive material relating to the history of genetics that allow us to explore what makes us similar. Interlaced alongside these shows are a series of workshops, artist talks, and educational initiatives designed to help visitors approach the content of the festival more broadly. Go to for more information.

Verzasca FOTO Festival / Sonogno, Switzerland / 2 - 5 September

© Kelly-Ann Bobb. 2021 exhibitor.

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 eighth edition of the festival, the curators have dedicated the programming to touch with a desire to show, through the images of national and international photographers, the importance of physical exchange and the connection between human beings. “Ever since ancient times, touch has been considered the least deceptive of our senses and the most certain: only what we touch exists, only what touches us exists”, they write in this year’s manifesto. “It is when closing our eyes that we discover the importance of this perception. During the past two years, the pandemic has rendered touch taboo. The imposition of social distancing forced us to translate our interactions into digital form, and our fear of the disease has transformed our hands into something to dread and avoid. Yet, a form of touch starvation was already underway amongst people, fostered precisely by technology and social networks.” The artists on display responding to this concept include Bas Losekoot, Cemre Yeşil, Edgar Martins, Federico Frangi, Hiro Tanaka, Kelly-Ann Bobb, Mathilda Olmi, Nathalie Vigini, Nicolas Polli, Red Rubber Road, Renée Jacobs, and Sarah Mei Herman.

The supporting program this year offers a wealth of opportunities for visitors to network and socialize 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. There will also be a special projection featuring the work of all 37 finalists of the PhMuseum 2021 Photography Grant. Further information can be found at

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

© Esther Horvath, from the series Women of Arctic Science. 2021 exhibitor.

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; Irma Bohórquez-Geisler’s portrayal of the daily life within the local Mexican-American and Mexican-immigrant communities from within New York City; and Esther Horvath’s visual tribute to the women who play a vitally important role in Arctic research. The likes of Ai Weiwei, Alexis Alleyne-Caputo, Isabelle Pateer, Joana Toro, Sheila Pree Bright, Jérémie Jung, Paula Bronstein, Lola Flash, Brian Skerry, Nataki Hewling, Eli Farinango, and Koral Carballo are also on the billing with solo exhibitions.

Elsewhere, in the standout group shows, Rebel Vision centers on the work of Black female and non-binary photojournalists to chart the liberatory possibilities of using the documentary camera as a tool for anti-racism; Giving Them Their Flowers is a multimodal youth-led storytelling exhibit honoring matriarchs of color through collaged photographs and oral histories; and System Error highlights the work of important activists who are on the ground working to reform our prison systems. United Photo Industries has also organized a collection of talks and workshops that will be available from the 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. All the information is on



Visa Pour l'Image / Perpignan, France / 28 August - 26 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. Various cultural spaces and a collection of pop-up venues will host a series of events that together look to draw attention back to those "expired" stories that nevertheless continue to develop away from the spotlight of the media. A selection of the standout work on display this year includes Darcy Padilla’s lighthearted depiction of the world’s largest laundromat in a working-class suburb of Chicago that doubles up as peaceful haven between work and home; Abir Abdullah’s investigation into how Bangladesh is set to be an increasing source of climate migrants amid constant annual floods and tornadoes; and Jérôme Gence’s report on the way new technologies can change working practices set in Bali, a favorite destination for young westerners hoping to find fulfillment by working at a distance.


Les Rencontres de la Photographie / Arles, France / 4 July - 26 September

Celebrating its 51st anniversary this year, Les Rencontres de la Photographie is one of the world's biggest photography institutions, playing the role of trendsetter and acting as a springboard for contemporary visual storytellers. The exhibitions this year fall under four main themes, namely Identities/Fluidities, Emergences, Atlas, and Rereading. Together they look to shed light on a world in upheaval where the image often plays a key role as witness or actor. Some of the highlights on display include Zora Murff’s humanistic and topographical research on the complex tangle of violence impacting the black community in the city of North Omaha in Nebraska, United States; Andrzej Steinbach’s suite of portraits addressing the representation and our common perception of the photographic model; and Anton Kusters conceptual work that opens up a space for reflection between the fractures of evidential specificity and the abstracted trace of the blue skies above.


PHotoEspaña / Madrid, Spain / 2 June - 30 September

Since its inception in 1998, PHotoEspaña has had a decidedly international vision, focusing both on grand concepts and defined artistic territories. Over the years it has emerged as one of Europe’s finest festivals, showcasing a diverse range of photography across a variety of institutions that together reflects upon the important role of the image. Once again under the directorship of Claude Bussac, the 2021 edition is one of the most wide-ranging and compelling yet with an exhibition and supporting program celebrating the power and beauty of photography as a storytelling medium. Some of the major attractions include Marilene Ribeiro’s exploration into the lights and shadows of hydroelectric energy from the perspective of the inhabitants of areas affected by major civil works; Liza Ambrossio’s investigation into the practice of free association with which she delves into the personal discomfort she has felt as a result of familial conflicts; and Paola Bragado’s ethnographic portrayal of women who accompany clients to dance in live music nightclubs in Mexico City.


Cortona On The Move / Cortona, Italy / 15 July - 3 October

Founded back in 2011, Cortona On The Move has evolved into one of the industry’s most dynamic and wide-ranging events, continually bringing new creative talents and novel forms of visual communication into the spotlight. Under the artistic directorship of Arianna Rinaldo, the festival aims to serve as a reference point, not only for accomplished photographers and amateurs alike, but also for diverse audiences that are attentive to contemporary cultural trends and the ongoing transformation of the visual language. This year’s focus takes shape around the theme We Are Humans, with a focus on stories that reconnect with ourselves in which the human being is the protagonist in their everyday life. Among the exhibition highlights, Paolo Pellegrin abstractly reflects upon the effects of the novel coronavirus and social distancing through portraits of people out of focus and in black and white; Stephanie Gengotti documents the lives of six circus families as a metaphor for the priority and the need to recover a sense of sharing and family; and Jo Ann Chaus analyzes the psychological aspects of how a person becomes, and continues to become, as influenced by the life experience which leaves imprints on the subconscious.


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.


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

15 minutes

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