The world's top photography festivals

Wed 8 Mar 2023

Find out the best photography festivals to attend to see contemporary work and network with other photographers.

This post is by Dr Catarina Fontoura, BA Photography Top-Up Lecturer at Falmouth University.

Photography festivals are fantastic opportunities for emerging photographers to see innovative contemporary work, network and receive feedback and training.

Some festivals have competitions for established and emerging photographers alike and it's worth signing up to their newsletters, even if you cannot attend in person. 

If you love travelling and can make it to a photography festival, I strongly recommend you check out this high caliber selection below!

SAN JOSÉ FOTO | Uruguay | April

SAN JOSÉ FOTO's main objective is to take the photograph to the interior of Uruguay and to the citizen in the streets. The festival uses unconventional formats and spaces, like facades of public and private buildings, to connect the public with the images. 

Since its first edition in 2014, it has been growing in relevance to the national photographic community and the region. The characteristics of the city of San José de Mayo, with its unique architecture combined with peaceful town life, make it a great place to use public spaces for visual arts.

The appeal of SAN JOSÉ FOTO is the ease of access from Brazil and Argentina, which allows novice photographers to meet with internationally renowned figures, as well as the warmth of local people who actively participate in all the programmes.

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Belfast Photography Festival | Ireland | June

Belfast Photo Festival is a not-for-profit organisation that presents one of the leading International Festivals of photography in the United Kingdom and the Visual Arts Festival of Northern Ireland.

Through popular culture, accessible themes and unexpected encounters with photography, the festival aims to instill and inspire public enjoyment and participation by utilising the most accessible artistic medium and bringing it to new audiences in cool and unusual ways.

The programme consistently addresses the political, social and cultural climate of Belfast, raising global issues and animating them through high caliber international photography.

Belfast Photography Festival has been at the forefront of innovation in the showcasing of photography as contemporary art. It consistently puts together great programmes which include exhibitions, talks, symposiums, workshops, screenings, masterclasses, portfolio reviews and tours.

Copenhagen photo festival | June 

The Copenhagen photography festival sees photography all over the Danish capital.

The festival turns a 10,000 m2 wasteland at the artificial island Refshaleøen into an innovative exhibition park offering a 360 degree festival experience that connects the best of photography and lens-based art with the buzzing city life.

The programme includes a range of creative activities for visitors, experimentation and boundary expanding exhibitions.

Paris Photo | November

Paris Photo is arguably the largest international photography fair in the world, showing the work of new and stablished artists, publishers, and gallery owners. The fair promotes a comprehensive overview of global photographic culture through the exhibition of works that rely on the medium in both classical and innovative techniques and styles.

Over 200 leading galleries showcase historical and contemporary artworks from modern masters to young talents. Specialised publishers and art book dealers present unique and rare editions, as well as book launches and signature sessions with many of today’s most renowned artists.

Held in the spectacular glass – and iron - domed Grand Palais Ephémère on the Champ de Mars facing the Eifffel Tower, it has the energy of a giant marketplace of contemporary photography.

Angkor Photography Festival |  Cambodia | January 

The Angkor Photo Festival launched its first iteration in 2005 with the aim of providing an affordable and accessible educational and professional platform for the region’s emerging photographic community.

The festival has been committed to the mission of supporting local talent ever since and their programmes are designed to foster Asian contributions to photography.

The festival includes many fantastic exhibitions but also organises professional education and development through workshops and events, giving visual practitioners in Asia an opportunity to engage in direct conversations about their work.

LAGOSPHOTO | Nigeria | Date to be announced 

Launched in 2010, LAGOSPHOTO is the first international arts festival of photography in Nigeria. In a month-long festival, events include exhibitions, workshops, artist presentations, discussions and large scale outdoor prints displayed throughout the city with the aim of reclaiming public spaces and engaging the general public with multifaceted stories of Africa.

LAGOSPHOTO aims to establish a community for contemporary photography which will unite local and international artists through images that encapsulate individual experiences and identities from across all of Africa.

LAGOSPHOTO presents and educates about photography as it is embodied in the exploration of historical and contemporary issues, the sharing of cultural practices, and the promotion of social programmes. 

MA Photography student Darren Clarke visited Malaysia as part of a cultural immersion programme with Falmouth University:

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