Tavakolian versus Carmignac

Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian (born 1981) gives her reasons for  returning the 50,000 Euro grant and stepping down as the winner of the Carmignac Gestion Award for photojournalism 2014 in an article Newsha Tavakolian versus Carmignac published today on The Eye of Photography (L’Oeil de la Photographie).  In it she makes clear her reasons for doing so, because of the interference of French investment banker Edouard Carmignac in the presentation of her work.  She writes:

from the moment I delivered the work, Mr. Carmignac insisted on personally editing my photographs as well as altering the accompanying texts to the photographs.”

and that his interventions had the effect of changing her work from “a subtle attempt to bring across the realities of life of my generation in Iran to a coarse and horrible clichéd view about Iran.”

Tavakolian states that the Carmignac Foundation has a persistent attitude of erring on the side of controversy, and that their behaviour towards her and her work is at odds with its stated aim of being “committed to champion the personal and, by definition, minority view”, attempting to straitjacket her subtle and nuanced individual perspective into the clichés about Iran. As she points out, even their statement they made about the ‘adjournment’ of her exhibitions and book they state this was due not to her standing up for the integrity of her work but to ‘severe pressure’ applied by the Iranian government on her and her family. She describes this as “absolutely false, and laughable”.

Tavakolian was one of the photographers – others included Azadeh Akhlaghi, Gohar Dashti, Shadi Ghadirian, Babak Kazemi, Abbas Kowsari, Ali and Ramyar, and Sadegh Tirafkan whose work was shown earlier this year at Somerset House in Burnt Generation: Contemporary Iranian Photography, and one of her pictures in a set of images on Iran’s young middle-class from The Observer shows a man sitting at a table with his face covered with shaving foam, ‘to draw attention to her feeling that, “Men in Iranian society are often perceived as angry and bearded in the west”’.

Hers is a principled stand, and one that as a photographer I whole-heartedly applaud. Too often the price of having work published or shown has been to have the views of others imposed on it. Her website  – and those of the other photographers listed above – is worth spending time looking at to understand something about both her own perspective and the realities behind living in Iran.

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