Iranian photographer and journalist Newsha Tavakolian has returned a €50,000 prize (~$64,600) after the patron behind the award allegedly placed editorial pressure on her work, the New York Times‘ Lens photography blog reported. Tavakolian went public with her retroactive refusal of the prize in a Facebook post on September 11, asserting that Edouard Carmignac, whose Carmignac Gestion Foundation presented the award, sought to change her “subtle” project into “a coarse and horrible clichéd view about Iran.” Specifically, Tavolakian claims that Carmignac sought to change the title of the project from “Blank Pages of an Iranian Photo Album” to “The Lost Generation,” an “overused and loaded title” that was “simply not acceptable” to her.
Tavakolian, who has worked for such publications as Time and National Geographic and has exhibited at the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others, said in her Facebook post that she had been working on the body of work associated with the prize since December 2013. When she emailed Carmignac with her intention to back out of the prize and its associated exhibition in Arles, France, the foundation issued a statement (which appears to no longer be on its website) attributing her withdrawal to “severe pressure” placed on her and her family by the Iranian government:
In order to protect Newsha Tavakolian and her family, the Carmignac Foundation has decided to adjourn the exhibition, initially planned for November in Paris and thereafter in Italy, Germany and the UK.
In the Facebook post, Tavakolian calls the foundation’s statement “absolutely false, and laughable,” adding that she is not “in any way under threat, at least no more than other journalists who are in Iran.” Tavakolian has recently also been traveling in Northern Iraq, where she is documenting the refugee crisis caused by the Islamic State’s ongoing territorial aggression in the region. Photographs from these travels have been posted to her Instagram page.