The festival was founded in 2020, with the aim of celebrating the power & diversity of contemporary photography, especially its ability to reach and engage audiences beyond the visual arts. In addition, the festival aimed to consolidate Bristol’s emerging reputation as the leading city beyond London for photography, while drawing together multiple organisations to work in partnership.
The first edition took place in 2021. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the festival had to adapt its plans, delivering exhibitions & engagement programmes over an extended 9-month period. In spite of the challenges, the festival achieved the following:

– 198,000 visitors attended with approximately
– 25% traveling from beyond the city
– Over 1000 participants took part in public programme events, including workshops, talks & symposia
– New audiences were engaged; for example, 42% of visitors at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery attended the Museum for the first time.

New commissions were met with critical acclaim; For example, Lebohang Kganye’s commission for the Georgian House Museum was subsequently shown at the Venice Biennale 2022.
The festival was featured in national & international media, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times & The British Journal of Photography.

BPF 2020 – 2021 involved many local photographers networking with and exhibiting alongside internationally acclaimed artists including: Stephen Gill (UK), Jem Southam (UK), Lebohang Kganye (South Africa), Laia Abril (Spain), Hoda Ashfar (Iran), Sarah Waiswa (Kenya), James Barnor (Gambia), Chris Hoare (UK), Lua Ribeira (Spain), Mark Simmons (UK), Jessa Fairbrother (UK), Debsuddha (India), a British Documentary Photography, a retrospective by the Martin Parr Foundation.


Furthermore, a programme of commissioning, engagement and education projects was delivered over a period of 12 months:

– 1 International Commission
– 2 local commissions
– 2 Research-based commissions
– 1 International mentorship programme
– 1 Open call project – 1000 submissions
– 1 project in partnership with local schools
– 6 Community workshops
– 6 workshops with young people (16-25)
– 1 Symposiums