Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian has been named winner of the 2015 Principal Prince Claus Award, the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development announced last week in Amsterdam. She will receive a 100,000 Euro prize, and she has already pledged to donate nearly half of her prize money to charity, including an aid organization for Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
In announcing the award, Prince Claus Fund organizers described Tavakolian as “a trailblazing artist and photojournalist whose work offers a compelling insider’s perspective on contemporary life in Iran and the Middle East…she fuses artistic work and documentary reportage to create intimate portraits and unexpected human stories that enable us to look deeply inside societies. ” Tavakolian will receive the prize December 2 at a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
Ten other individuals and organizations will also receive awards. But Tavakolian was named the winner of the Prince Claus Fund’s top award “for her beautiful and moving testimony of the complexities and ambiguities of contemporary Iran” as well as for her courage, critical insight, support for young photographers, and her commitment to women’s voices, organizers said.
In addition to the prize money, Tavakolian’s award includes an exhibition of her work at The Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam from November 27 to March 4, 2016.
“Unfortunately it is hard for me to enjoy this prize as much as I would like to, seeing the region where I work and live in flames and tens of thousands seeking refuge in faraway lands,” the photographer said on her Facebook page, after the award was announced.
She went on to say she would donate 15,000 Euros to an organization that supports Syrian and Iraqi refugees. “[I] want to give back [for] all the kindness Iraqi’s and Syrians always welcomed me with, despite the dire circumstances they live in,” she wrote on Facebook.
Tavakolian pledged another 13,000 Euros to an independent photography prize in Iran that supports young photographers; 10,000 Euros to an Iranian charity that helps children with cancer; and 7,000 Euros to several organizations in Iran that protect animals.
The Prince Claus Awards were established 19 years ago to honor outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development. They are awarded annually to individuals and groups who have had a positive impact on the development of their societies, according to the Prince Claus Fund web site.
Among other winners of 2015 Prince Claus Awards was photographer Latif Al-Ani, who documented life in Iraq from the 1950s to the 1970s. The other winners included artists, journalists, and arts collectives.
This year, the fund invited 250 people to submit nominations for the awards. Winners were selected from 103 nominations. Jurors included filmmaker and journalist Bregtje van der Haak (Netherlands); architect and writer Suad Amiry (Palestine); art historian Salah Hassan (Sudan); writer Kettly Mars (Haiti); theater producer and director Ong Keng Sen (Singapore); and independent curator Gabriela Salgado (Argentina).