12 Photo Festivals Every Photographer Should Know About

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One of the best ways to grow as a photographer is to immerse yourself in art. Museums and art galleries have long served as perennial sources of creative inspiration. In recent years, an even more photocentric phenomenon has gained traction: the photo festival. In addition to providing exhibition spaces for artists, curators, and galleries, many of these events also include artist talks, panel discussions, portfolio reviews, and endless networking opportunities. Below are a few of our favorite annual and biannual photo festivals around the country.

Note: Dates have been omitted from this list because they change from year to year. Instead, festivals are organized by the seasons during which they are typically held. Check out the links for each festival to learn specific schedules.

Interior of one of Photoville’s iconic shipping containersJohn Harris

Fall Photo Festivals

Photoville

Location: Brooklyn, NY; Los Angeles, CA

Frequency: Annual

Founded: New York (2011), Los Angeles (2018)

Website: https://photoville.nyc/ and https://photoville.la

Over the past few years, Photoville has grown into one of the largest annual celebrations of photography in the Eastern United States. Its signature repurposed shipping container exhibition spaces present a well-curated blend of established and emerging artists. For ten days, Brooklyn Bridge Plaza hosts workshops, panel discussions, artist talks, walking tours, and even a portable tintype booth from our friends at Penumbra Foundation. A growing number of “What is Photography?” participants have shown work and/or spoken at Photoville including: Xyza Cruz Bacani, Miranda Barnes, Delphine Diallo, Laylah Matullah Barryn, Jamel Shabazz, Sarah Blesener, and Mark Mann. If you’re lucky, you may even catch the B&H Podcast crew talking to artists.

Last spring, Photoville brought its shipping-container installations to Los Angeles for two weekends. In addition to exhibiting photographs, the L.A version included nighttime projections, artist talks, and workshops for attendees.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP)

Location: Atlanta, GA

Frequency: Annual

Founded: 1998

Website: https://acpinfo.org

Atlanta Celebrates Photography is a month-long festival dedicated to lens-based media across the Atlanta metropolitan area. Existing in dedicated art spaces, as well as public installations, ACP offers a wide range of photographic experiences. Its lecture series has hosted an impressive lineup of photo talent, including Annie Leibovitz, Pete Souza, Alec Soth, Zanele Muholi, Deana Lawson, John Waters, and Gregory Crewdson. ACP also organizes a photobook fair, film series, and benefit auction. Hands-on activities for artists include portfolio reviews and an open exhibition where anyone can register to pin up one of their photographs for display.

Portfolio Walk at Filter Photo FestivalErin Hoyt

Filter Photo Festival

Location: Chicago, IL

Frequency: Annual

Founded: 2009

Website: https://filterphoto.org

Filter Photo is a non-profit organization serving the photography communities of Chicago and surrounding regions. Each year, Filter Photo organizes a festival that serves as one of the premier photo gatherings in the Midwest. Emphasizing community, there are multiple portfolio review sessions where feedback can be received from seasoned professionals or the public. Exhibitions and artist talks provide further opportunities to see and hear from working artists. Finally, workshops dedicated to artistic development are provided to help artists navigate the world as professionals.

Review Santa Fe Photo Festival

Location: Santa Fe, NM

Frequency: Annual

Founded: 2000

Website: https://visitcenter.org/rsf-overview/

Review Santa Fe Photo Festival is an annual weekend event that hosts a whopping 1,000+ one-on-one portfolio reviews conducted by editors, curators, publishers, and other industry leaders. The emphasis of this festival is professional development, because it provides ample opportunities for networking and getting work in front of fresh eyes. Workshops, pop-up exhibitions, artist talks, and a photobook fair round out the gathering.

Fotofocus

Location: Cincinnati, OH

Frequency: Biannual

Founded: 2010

Website: https://www.fotofocus.org/

Fotofocus is a biannual, thematic celebration of photography that attracts artists, educators, and professionals from around the country to the Greater Cincinnati region for about a month of festivities. Exhibitions range from the icons of 19th- and 20th-century photography to the freshest contemporary artists working today. Panels, lectures, performances, and film screenings are carefully curated around a unifying theme, which is selected for each iteration of the event.

Portfolio Reviews at The Medium FestivalAntoine Didienne

The Medium Festival

Location: San Diego, CA

Frequency: Biannual

Founded: 2011

Website: https://www.mediumphoto.org/

The Medium Festival takes the idea of an international art festival seriously—it extends its programming from San Diego to across the border to Tijuana. A four-day affair, half of The Medium Festival is dedicated to portfolio reviews while the other half organizes artist lectures, a juried exhibition, and tours of studios and galleries in both San Diego and Tijuana.

Winter Photo Festivals

Miami Street Photography Festival

Location: Miami, FL

Frequency: Annual

Founded: 2011

Website: https://www.miamistreetphotographyfestival.org

The Miami Street Photography Festival is an annual event put on in partnership with the HistoryMiami Museum, and focused on contemporary street and documentary practice. Each year brings talks from some of the masters of the field, including Eugene Richards, Susan Meiselas, Martin Parr, Larry Fink, and others. Awards for the best single image and photographic series have international reach, drawing artists from around the world to participate. Workshops and exhibitions dedicated to street photography make this festival a must-visit for fans of the genre. As a bonus, MSPF takes place at the same time as Art Basel Miami Beach, offering an opportunity to supplement your photo experience with contemporary work across all media.

CURRENTS exhibition opening at the Ogden Museum for PhotoNOLAAmy Breaux

PhotoNOLA

Location: New Orleans, LA

Frequency: Annual

Founded: 2006

Website: https://photonola.org

PhotoNOLA is an annual event organized by the New Orleans Photo Alliance that includes citywide art openings, a photobook fair, and photo walk, among other photo-related events. Artist lectures, portfolio reviews and workshops provide opportunities to interact with established figures in the field. As an added incentive to put your work out there, prizes are awarded to the top three participants of the portfolio review.

Courtesy of Sears-Peyton Gallery (for photo l.a.) Tyler Haughey (left) Courtesy of Galerie XII (for photo l.a.) Anja Niemi

photo l.a.

Location: Santa Monica, CA

Frequency: Annual
Founded: 1992

Website: https://www.photola.com/

The longest running annual photographic art fair west of the Mississippi River, photo l.a. serves as a meeting ground for artists, curators, gallery owners, and other photo professionals. Recently moved to the Barker Hangar, a historic aviation facility converted to a massive event space in Santa Monica, the festival sets up exhibitions, film screenings, and docent tours. Events range from critic-artist conversations to roundtables with established curators, gallerists, and academics on a range of topics.

Spring Festivals

FotoFest

Location: Houston, TX

Frequency: Biannual

Founded: 1983

Website: https://www.facebook.com/fotofest/

Over the past three decades, FotoFest has come to include a Biennial Festival in Houston’s Historic First Ward Creative District, a series of traveling inter-Biennial shows, and a year-round Literacy Through Photography educational program. The Biennial is an ambitious endeavor, featuring emerging and established contemporary photographers from around the world. In addition to print exhibitions, multi-media installations and film screenings add diversity to the festival experience. A portfolio review, print auction, numerous artist talks, and thematic symposia keep FotoFest at the top of the photo festival circuit.

Paris Photo New York

Location: New York, NY

Frequency: Annual

Founded: 2020 (Paris Photo: 1997; AIPAD: 1979)

Website: https://aipad.com/The-Photography-Show-presented-by-AIPAD

For decades, the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) has organized some of the most impressive annual displays of fine art photography in New York City. In Europe, Paris Photo claims the title of the largest international art fair dedicated to photography. Starting in 2020, AIPAD and Paris Photo will partner to launch a new festival: Paris Photo New York. The show will be shaped by guest curators responsible for organizing exhibitions, artist talks, and project spaces centered upon fine art photography. The new show will take place at the same location as past AIPAD events, Pier 94. Read about AIPAD’s 2019 Photography Show on Explora here.

Portfolio Walk at Photolucida Portfolio Reviews FestivalAaron Norberg

Photolucida Portfolio Reviews Festival and Portland Photo Month

Location: Portland, OR

Frequency: Biannual

Founded: 1997

Website: https://www.photolucida.org

Every other spring (alternating with the timing of Houston Fotofest), industry professionals gather with emerging and mid-career artists in the Pacific Northwest for Portland Photo Month and Photolucida’s five-day Portfolio Reviews. Supplementing a city-wide exhibition schedule and the reviews festival are public talks from artists and gallerists, as well as a photobook fair, portfolio walk, and auction. Photolucida also works to connect the photography community on a global scale through its annual online program Critical Mass.

Do you have a favorite photo festival that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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