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Newsha Tavakolia: Inspiring Change Through Photography
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Newsha Tavakolia: Inspiring Change Through Photography

Picture of Judith Goldstein
Updated: 29 December 2016
Due to the iron-fist policies of the Iranian regime, young and exceptional voices of a rebelling youth have emerged to expose the reality of their homeland and inspire social change. Newsha Tavakolian is featured as one of the most recognized names in photojournalism after being awarded the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award.
Newsha Tavakolian's Look Series
From Newsha Tavakolian’s Look Series | © Newsha Tavakolian

Newsha Tavakolian is no stranger to war. Born in the midst of the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, her entrance into the world gave her a special eye for the human experience and exceptional struggle. As a result, she has been able to capture the horror and humanity of life in unforgettable ways. Her roots in photography stretch back to when she was 16 and worked at Iran’s Women’s Daily. Since then, she has photographed and filmed struggles around the world, including the 1999 student uprising in Iran, the war in Iraq, and conflicts in Yemen, Lebanon, Saudi-Arabia, Syria and Pakistan.

Newsha Tavakolian's Look Series
From Newsha Tavakolian’s Look Series | © Newsha Tavakolian

As a self-taught photographer, Tavakolian shares her vision of the world through the lens of a camera, creating profound images and striking social documentaries. She has a keen way of making the viewer feel the emotion and dynamics of each moment she captures, providing the audience a genuine connection with her subjects. Her talent has been so pervasive that she has been featured in major publications such as The National Geographic, TIME Magazine, and The New York Times, and has been selected to work with New York-based agency Polaris Images.

Newsha Tavakolian's Look Series
From Newsha Tavakolian’s Look Series | © Newsha Tavakolian

In her series Look, Tavakolian focuses on the dynamics of modern Iran, astutely portraying the country’s flailing dichotomy of modernity and stringency. She is able to represent a nation that is young, innovative and full of energy, but is trifled by antiquity and oppression. In this series, Tavakolian takes raw portraits of the Iranian youth, showing their potential and their mounted frustration. The subjects are photographed in their homes, in their own elements, and often in deep thought, yet their very expressions and gestures provide a window into their minds. Very much like her work, the culture she exposes is one that is raw, complex, yet straightforward.

Newsha Tavakolian's Look Series
From Newsha Tavakolian’s Look Series | © Newsha Tavakolian

Tavakolian’s profound images have been on exhibit across the world, in places including Berlin, Iran, England, France and the United States. She was honored with the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award. However, as a testament to her artistic integrity and her dedication to providing realistic images of her subjects, Tavakolian returned the award and the money, citing that the head of the institution’s interference with her artistic freedom was unacceptable.

Newsha Tavakolian's Look Series
From Newsha Tavakolian’s Look Series | © Newsha Tavakolian

In an even more shocking turn of events, the Carmignac Foundation responded by promising new terms to all award recipients, which guarantees that they will not interfere in any way with with an artist’s work and her vision. These turn of events prove that in every way Newsha is more than an artist – she is, importantly, an activist who inspires real change.

Newsha Tavakolian's Look Series
From Newsha Tavakolian’s Look Series | © Newsha Tavakolian