Photojournalism Foundation resolves Award disagreement

The Carmignac Foundation settles differences with Award winner following dispute over "artistic freedom"

Gemma Padley 29 September 2014

A portrait of Somayyeh, a 32-year old divorced teacher © Newsha Tavakolian for the Carmignac Foundation

Image © Newsha Tavakolian

A dispute between French-based photojournalism organisation Carmignac Foundation and photographer Newsha Tavakolian came to a positive resolution today following a series of lengthy discussions.

As reported in BJP, Iranian photographer Tavakolian was awarded the 2014 Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award in July this year, but later announced she was handing back her Award, including the €50,000 prize money, due to “irreconcilable differences” with the Foundation and its patron, Edouard Carmignac.

In her statement, the prize winner claimed that her “artistic freedom” had been compromised, and accused the Foundation of interfering in the presentation of her work – a series of images depicting life for young people in Iran. Tavakolian added that Carmignac had changed the title of her project to a name she did not agree with, and had wrongly claimed she had been threatened by the Iranian Government.

But in a statement posted to her Facebook page today [29 September], Tavakolian said she accepted new conditions offered to her by the Foundation, which will see the photographer resume her relationship with the organisation, and work with jury president Anahita Ghabaian and jury member Sam Stourdzé (incoming director of Les Rencontres d’Arles festival), on a touring exhibition and book of her work.

“This weekend [27 and 28 September 2014] the Carmignac Foundation had a huge turn around, promising that from now on there will be no more interference in my project,” wrote Tavakolian. “I have decided to accept these new conditions, as for me this was about one thing only – to be able, as a photographer, to choose the title, edits and texts of my work.”

Tavakolian thanked friends and photography professionals for the support she had received, saying that, “this would never have happened without the deep commitment shown by the jury members who have stood up for the main principle that makes us all love photography, journalism and art: freedom of expression.”

The photographer went on to post a statement released by the Foundation announcing changes to the way it delivers its annual Award. In the statement, the Foundation said it deeply regretted the dispute that had occurred, and would now guarantee artistic freedom to its winning photographers. It added that in future, the president of the jury would be the chief curator for the following year.

While the Foundation denied allegations of censorship, which it said were “incompatible with the founding principles of the Award”, it admitted that the debate had “raised valid questions about the respective roles of the jury and of the patron.”

The changes to the rules of the Award came after discussions that took place on 22 September and included critic and artistic director Christian Caujolle; photography consultant Celina Lunsford; former Carmignac Gestion winner Davide Monteleone; and photographers Reza, Mark Sealy, and Jérôme Sessini, as well as Ghabaian, and Stourdzé.

“The Foundation took a big step in making these changes,” Tavakolian told BJP on the phone this afternoon. “To me, the most important thing is my artistic freedom. In light of the changes, I’m very hopeful for the future of the Award.”

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