Open call Noorderlicht International Photofestival 2020 | Generation Z

Generation Z

On the verge of a new alphabet

Central to the 2020 Noorderlicht International Photography Festival is the mind-set and energy of the youngest generation of world citizens: Generation Z. How do they deal with their dystopian future perspective? Their emotions are a source of desire and a sinkhole at the same time, leading to grand and compelling activism, but also to changing attitudes to life that remain under the radar. By tapping into the hopes and fears of Generation Z, Noorderlicht aims to provide insight into their young adult world and reflect them against those of previous generations.


Generation Z is the first group of digital world citizens to have an infinite amount of information at their fingertips from an early age on. But they are also naturally aware of its problematic relationship with the truth and live in the knowledge that their real life does not correspond to the screen reality they can create.

Generation Z is witnessing the start of the fourth industrial revolution, in which technology is turning labour relations and the very essence of humanity upside down. Z is confronted with climate threats and an exhausted earth. It has no conscious memories of 9/11 or of a time without war on terror. It grows up in a world where it sees itself surrounded by work pressure problems, economic stagnation and nationalistic sentiment. They are young adults with less expectations of a stable future than their parents, something they hold previous generations (Millennials, Generation X, Boomers) responsible for.

The new alphabet

If one thing is clear to this generation it’s this: the current system no longer suffices. They collectively take to the streets to bring about change and fight hand in hand for a new balance between the forces that must guarantee the future of this planet. Z is clearing up radically, speeding up things like equality and inclusiveness. Subjects such as de-colonialisation, gender equality and body positivity are high on the agenda, and that is just the beginning. The alphabet must start all over again, with a fresh alpha that has a full alphabet ahead of it. Everything is being done to make that happen.

In short

Generation Z is about realising a turning point, creating a basis for a new future and taking responsibility. In this story it is the personification of a change in thinking and acting, in which all generations will have to participate.


Collective movement

Noorderlicht is not only calling on photographers and artists belonging to Generation Z: everyone is welcome to contribute to addressing and refining the subjects that deserve our attention: all generations, individuals or collectives. Even if your thoughts about Generation Z differ to what is outlined above, or if you feel that other elements of the story deserve a stage, you are cordially invited. 


Generation Z will be compiled by guest-curator Robert Jan Verhagen, curator and director of LhGWR in The Hague until the end of 2018. In close consultation with the team of Noorderlicht, he will curate the festival on the basis of submissions and his own research. Noorderlicht welcomes proposals from photographers, lens-based artists and curators from all parts of the world. Art forms relating to photography, such as digital media, video or VR, are also specifically requested, as is work in which photography enters into a dialogue with all other conceivable types of media.


Proposals can be submitted until 20 February 2020. Guidelines for submissions can be found on our website. For questions about submissions, please contact Robert Jan Verhagen: 

Click here for an extended text on Generation Z and guidelines for submission (pdf).

The Noorderlicht Festival

Noorderlicht is an international platform for artists who use photography and adjoining media in all its stories, forms and changes to portray their engagement with society.

Generation Z is the 27th edition of the Noorderlicht International Photography Festival and takes place from 21 June until 20 September 2020. Museum Belvédère in Heerenveen is both partner and the main location, complemented by locations in Heerenveen and Leeuwarden.