September 17th, 2014

The 50,000 Euro Controversy Over Artistic Freedom and the Carmignac Gestion Prize

carmignac-pageNewsha Tavakolian, the Tehran-based photojournalist who won the 2014 Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award, announced last week that she will return the 50,000 Euro prize, due to “irreconcilable differences over the presentation of my work.” Tavakolian claims Edouard Carmignac, head of the Carmignac Gestion investment bank which funds the Carmignac Foundation and the photojournalism prize, edited her work and changed its title “in ways that were simply not acceptable to me.” In a statement sent to PDN, a spokesperson for the Carmignac Foundation claims the organization has “postponed” planned exhibitions and the publication of Tavakolian’s work to protect the photographer and her family from threats from the Iranian government.

Created in 2009, the Carmignac Gestion photojournalism award “aims to support photojournalists who find themselves working on the front line of different situations.” Selected by a jury of photographers, curators and editors, the prize winner receives 50,000 Euros to complete a project, exhibitions in Paris and elsewhere, and the publication of a book. Previous winners of the Carmignac Gestion prize have included Kai Wiedenhoefer and Davide Monteleone. Tavakolian is the first woman awarded the prize.

Though Tavakolian was selected the 2014 winner in November of last year, her identity was kept confidential due to security concerns while she worked on her project in Iran, according to the Carmignac Foundation. She delivered images to the Foundation in July; her win was announced that month at the Recontres D’Arles photo festival.

On September 11, Tavakolian posted on her Facebook page a statement saying that she was returning the money because of disagreements with Edouard Carmignac.

“Unfortunately…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. Mr. Carmignac’s interference in the project culminated in choosing an entirely unacceptable title for my work that would undermine my project irredeemably.” Tavakolian says she titled the project, which depicts everyday life in Iran, “Blank Pages of an Iranian Photo Album,” but in announcing the prize, the Carmignac Foundation called it “The Lost Generation,” a title Tavakolian calls “overused and loaded” and “unnecessarily controversial.” She said in her Facebook statement that in her emails to Carmignac, “I tried to convince him that as the creator of this project, I am entitled to my artistic freedom. Whilst I absolutely welcome other points of view, I cannot accept that anyone other than myself should have the final say about my work. But at no point would he accept this as my right.”

Tavakolian told PDN on she had contacted the Foundation to arrange the transfer of funds to their account.

A spokesperson sent PDN a statement from the Carmignac Foundation that says Tavakolian had changed the project she had originally proposed to the jury. According to the foundation, Tavakolian “notified the Foundation of specific and significant risks posed to her own safety, and that of her family, and expressed her intention to tone down and shift the focus of her proposed ‘Burnt Generation’ project that had been selected by the Jury.

“Under these circumstances, the Foundation made the difficult decision to postpone the project rather than accept such a change, which it felt would have distorted the Award’s mission without necessarily guaranteeing the safety of its winner.”

Tavakolian told PDN via email, “The reaction from the Carmignac Foundation is a clear manipulation of the truth.” She considers the mention of safety issues “a threat” from Carmignac, she says.

“The issue at hand here is my right for artistic freedom and Mr. Carmignac’s misplaced ambition to edit, alter, and change my project, including the title to his own liking. I do not need Mr. Carmignac’s ‘protection’ as he prefers to call this drama. I have been working in Iran for 15 years and have faced many problems, but solved them myself and managed to tell the story. What [I] need from him is simple: my artistic freedom and the right to have the final say over my own project.”

Though one of Tavokolian’s images remains on the Carmignac Foundation website, exhibitions of her work have been canceled, the Foundation statement says.

Davide Monteleone, last year’s winner, served on the jury that selected Tavakolian for the 2014 prize. He says when he turned in the project on Chechnya he shot with the Carmignac Gestion prize, he worked only with artistic director Nathalie Gallon. “I had no interference from Mr. Carmignac.” Monteleone says his book and exhibition “are exactly the way I wanted them to be. I think for such a prize, this is the only way it should be.”

The Carmignac Foundation is continuing with plans to offer the prize in 2015, this time supporting works on the theme of “lawless areas in France.”

September 10th, 2013

Aftermath Project Accepting Applications for $20K Grant

Applications are now being accepted for the 2014 Aftermath Project Grant, an award of $20,000 that will be given to a photographer working on a project that explores the aftermath of violent conflict. The 2014 Aftermath Project Grant is supported by the Foundation to Promote Open Society.

Photojournalist Sara Terry founded the non-profit grant-making organization The Aftermath Project in 2003 with the belief that quiet stories of people rebuilding their lives after war or other conflicts have a vital role to play in how the international community understands the effects of armed conflicts on populations.

The deadline for applications is November 11, 2013, with the winner to be announced in mid-December. In addition to the grant, The Aftermath Project will also recognize four finalists, and their work will be published alongside the winners in a book, War is Only Half the Story: Vol 8.

Recent Aftermath Project grant-winners include Stanley Greene, Andrew Lichtenstein and Davide Monteleone.

For more information and to submit an application, visit: http://theaftermathproject.org/2014-Application

Related: Anatomy of a Successful Grant Application (about Lichtenstein’s Aftermath Project Grant application)
Stanley Greene Wins 2013 Aftermath Grant
$20,000 Aftermath Project Grant for 2012 Awarded to Andrew Lichtenstein

April 22nd, 2013

Boston Bombings Focus Attention on Caucasus, And Photo Projects on the Region

© Davide Monteleone/VII. From Red Thistle (published by Dewi Lewis)

© Davide Monteleone/VII. From Red Thistle (published by Dewi Lewis)

As investigations into the alleged Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev focus on their connection to Chechnya and to the region of Dagestan, where Tamerlan spent time in January 2012, we’re once again looking at photographic studies of the North Caucusus. This volatile and troubled region may be little known to many Americans, but it’s been the subject of in-depth examination by photographers including Stanley Greene, Thomas Dworzak and Davide Monteleone. They have explored not only the violence in the region, but its culture, rituals and legacy of ethnic and political tensions.

Talking about his 2012 book Red Thistle, which explores life in the Northern Caucusus, David Monteleone told PDN in  2012 that he wanted to learn more about the people in the region than he could learn from media reports about terrorist attacks and human rights abuses. The book is a collection of images he took over several years in the republics around Chechnya, including Dagestan, Abkhazia (the Georgian Republic), Ingushetia, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and the disputed territory of South Ossetia.

“For every work that I do, I want to show the daily life of people,” Monteleone told PDN. “Then of course I try to get a little bit deeper and try to find my own vision, but it’s my curiosity first of all.”

People he met in the region who were hospitable and welcoming, he says, but “the authorities were not.” Many of his images were shot indoors, conveying the constraints he experienced. “You have this wild, big [landscape], and at the same time the people are sort of afraid of moving, they cannot reach some places. A lot of areas are closed because of antiterrorist operations, you cannot go to the mountains because it’s forbidden because of military operations … [The people] are restricted in a way, in the mind and physically.”

You can read Monteleone’s full interview in “Disputed Territories: Exploring Life in the Northern Caucuses” on PDNOnline.

* Photo, above: A woman in the Dagestan village of Gimri during the sacrifice of a bull. © Davide Monteleone/VII
Related articles
Disputed Territories: Exploring Life in the Northern Caucusus
Photo Gallery: More Images from Red Thistle