Showing at several locations throughout the city, all within easy walking distance of Brighton’s main railway station, this is the UK’s leading curated photography festival and brings together some top names from home and abroad for a month of thought-provoking exhibitions and events – all of which are absolutely free.

Produced by Photoworks, a national development agency for photography based in Brighton whose work is often political or controversial, this biennial’s theme is “Beyond the Bias – Reshaping Image”, focusing on self-identity and personal representation. Gender and sexuality, style and fashion, subcultures and the subversion of social and cultural norms – all these subjects and more are explored through the lens by a range of local, national and international photographers whose work challenges the viewer to question their pre-conceived ideas of how people choose to present themselves, both publicly and in private.

Highlights include “REIMAGINE” showing at the University of Brighton Galleries, Grand Parade in which renowned London-based Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur and Delhi-born Bharat Sikka, whose work has been featured in Vogue and The New York Times, collaborated to capture images of communities in Brighton and Mumbai that document the contrasting politics of gender and sexuality in each location. “Brighton is far more open than Mumbai” said Olivia Arthur at the exhibition’s preview, “but the same issues pervade under the surface.” Her stark black and white photographs show a hidden, intimate side of the megalopolis which many Indians interpret as shameful and few visitors get to see. Conversely, Bharat Sikka was drawn in by the openness and vibrancy of Brighton’s LGBTQ+ community. Many of his colourfully explicit pictures are infused with a sense of fantasy that is simultaneously playful yet dark.

Ewen Spencer’s “KICK OVER THE STATUES” at FABRICA, 40 Duke Street loudly celebrates the spontaneity and spectacle of tribalism in British youth culture by documenting young Londoners partying at Notting Hill Carnival and cliques of self-conscious teenagers preening and posing in their assumed uniforms on the streets of Liverpool. Brighton resident Spencer is famous for his commercial photography commissioned by mega-brands such as Apple and Nike and has won awards for his documentary work for Channel 4. His images have also adorned the front of iconic magazines such as ‘The Face’ and the covers of albums by The Streets and The White Stripes. Asked where to go in the UK right now to see the very finest examples of modernist culture and emerging youth fashion, Spencer replies “Online, of course!”.

Global expressions of black Dandyism, combined with non-conformist concepts of “fluid masculinity” are dealt with in more than 150 pictures by 30 different photographers in “THE DANDY LION PROJECT” at University of Brighton Galleries, Edward Street. This is the European premiere of a touring exhibition which is the first of its kind to highlight the sartorial splendour of young black men in urban landscapes across various countries. Coming direct from Chicago, the photographs have been curated by Andy Warhol Curatorial Fellow, Shantrelle P. Lewis, who is proud to display a series of images that boldly defy stereotypical and often prejudicial perceptions of black male identity.

Brighton’s Photo Fringe festival of photography — also free — runs concurrently with the biennial during October and features over 100 artists across 40 venues throughout the city, featuring exhibitions, screenings, talks, workshops and tours.

Free at various locations throughout Brighton: