Calgary’s Exposure Photography Festival celebrates emerging Canadian talent in its 17th edition

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The festival’s diverse programme embraces a vast array of photographic practices, with a special focus on education and awareness.


This February, Alberta’s long-standing photography festival Exposure will return for its 17th consecutive year. Taking place in and around its home of Calgary, the 2021 edition promises to deliver the best in emerging and established photography talent from Canada and around the world. There will be over 190 visual artists exhibiting in a range of physical and online spaces. These include galleries, local businesses, digital billboards and the famous Photoville Fence.

Kobar, Palestine © Antonio Faccilongo.

One of the six physical exhibitions at this year’s festival is the International Open Call, which brings together a global selection of photographers including Kriss Munsya, Antonio Faccilongo and Michelle Piergoelam. The show is curated by MaryAnn Camilleri, the founder of Toronto-based arts publishing house the Magenta Foundation. Through forging a career in discovering promising young photographers, Camilleri understands how to strike the right balance when curating an exhibition such as this. “Magenta was mandated to serve underserved and emerging artists, so I curate with an open inclusiveness that has been ingrained in me for years,” she says. “I tend to look for the unjust and bring them to the surface for audience education and awareness. Today, social issues, climate, race and identity are at the top of everyone’s minds.”

This exhibition will feature 15 different photographers who “incorporate, celebrate or challenge the photographic medium”, including Portrait of Humanity 2020 winner Mirja Maria Thiel. Speaking on her personal highlights from the curation, Camilleri says Jooeun Bae, Clare Thomas, Leah Schretenthaler and Ingrid Weyland are good examples of practitioners creating thought-provoking work. “I love those that challenge the medium and think way outside the box,” she explains. “[This is] photography at its best – strong narrative, amazing imagery and full of heart. All of these works leap off the page.”

Image © Jade Bartlett.
Nameless boy who gave his name to Sunday interaction © Joel Matthew Warkentin.

The festival’s other curated exhibition Emerging Photographers Showcase will be taking place at the Contemporary Calgary gallery and is juried by its chief curator, Ryan Doherty. As a way of championing local up-and-coming talent, the lineup exclusively features Alberta-based photographers, including the winner of Exposure’s 2020 Emerging Photographers of the Year Award, Colleen Rauscher, who will be presenting her first solo show. The show also features Emma Palm, Angela Boehm, Joel Matthew Warkentin and Jade Bartlett. 

Other things to see at this year’s instalment include the city-wide public exhibition Exposure Billboard, which will showcase images by 30 photographers on digital billboards across Calgary, and The Photoville Fence, a year-round public photography project that presents the work of 90 photographers along an 800ft space. The Olympic Plaza is the only location outside of the USA to play host to this innovative exhibition, which will feature 2020 Ones to Watch photographer Kennedi Carter, among others.

Image © Ella Morton.
Image © Emma Palm.
The Mask © Kriss Munsya.

Finally, in order to help photography and visual arts students who are transitioning from high school to higher education, Exposure Photography Festival, in partnership with the Magenta Foundation, is bringing back the Flash Forward Incubator Program for its fourth consecutive year. Online activities will be run by professional artists to support critical and creative thinking and to help students prepare for an exhibition that will coincide with the program. 

Exposure Photography Festival is on now and runs throughout the month of February 2021. You can find out more here

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel Milroy Maher is a London-based writer and editor specialising in photographic journalism. His work has been published by The New York Times, Magnum Photos, Paper Journal, GUP Magazine, and VICE, among others. He also co-founded SWIM Magazine, an annual art and photography publication.