There is no singular definition of a photo festival – each is a species of its own, unique and spirited. What we can probably agree on is that photo festivals all over the world have served as a vital catalyst in the development of contemporary visual culture for the past two decades, constituting a global circuit where talents get discovered, acknowledged and nurtured. Many have also grown to become an integral aspect of their domestic arts scene, broadening horizons for their communities and engaging in critical sociocultural discourse.

This inaugural symposium by the Singapore International Photography Festival brings together major international players to explore the trajectory of photo festivals and its role in the future. 

Moderated by Kong Yen Lin, writer and researcher. Each panel is inclusive of a 10 min Q&A.


2pm to 3pm

Photo festivals – The origin story

This opening segment of the forum examines the early beginnings of the phenomenon of photography festivals. How did festivals get started? How do they compare with art biennials and triennials? What were some of the challenges laying the foundations?


3.30pm to 4.30pm

And the show goes on

The phenomenon of photo festivals reached its peak in the early to mid 2010s, with an estimated 60 photo festivals organised internationally in the annual arts calendar. What kept some of the longest running photo festivals going? Amongst numerous transformations, how has the language and expression of contemporary photography evolved?


5pm to 6pm

Future dreaming

In this concluding segment, we look ahead to envision how photo festivals will continue to transform in the decades ahead. How does a festival stay nimble and responsive to the discourses of the present? How have challenges evolved? What is in store for audiences?


Julia Durkin
Founder and CEO, Auckland Festival of Photography

Steven Evans
Executive Director, FotoFest

Shahidul Alam
Founder, Chobi Mela International Photography Festival

Piyatat Hemmatat
Director, PhotoBangkok

Gwen Lee
Director, Singapore International Photography Festival and DECK

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