Newsha Tavakolian, born 1981 in Tehran, is an Iranian self-taught photojournalist and documentary photographer. She has worked for Time Magazine, Le Figaro, National Geographic and The New York Times. She is well known for focusing on women's issues in her work.
Tavakolian, at age 16, took a photography course, thereafter she began working as a freelance photographer in Iranian press. She started at the women's daily newspaper Zan, and later on worked for other reformist dailies, all since banned. She covered the July 1999 student protest, her photographs were published in several publications. Tavakolian’s photographs, however, were used by the authorities to track down and arrest protesters. This prompted Tavakolian to take her photography in a new direction and do not let her photographs endanger anyone.
She got her international break in 2001, when she met the founder of Polaris Images, New York, J.P. Pappis, at a photography festival in Perpignan, France. Thereafter, she began covering Iran for Polaris Images, and started working as a freelancer for The Times in 2004. Over the years, she has been working internationally, covering wars, natural disasters and social documentary stories in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and more.
Tavakolian works have been published by international magazines and newspapers such as Time Magazine, Newsweek, Stern, Le Figaro, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Colors, New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.
In the chaotic aftermath of Iran’s 2009 Presidential election Tavakolian had to put a temporary halt to her photojournalistic work. But, she began other projects focusing on art using photography as well as social documentary. Tavakolian’s photographs became more artistic and involved social commentary. A common theme in her work is photo stories of women, friends and neighbors in Iran, evolving role of women in overcoming gender-based restrictions, and contrasts the stereotypes in western media. Her photo projects include Mother of Martyrs, 2006; Women in the Axis of Evil, 2006; The Day I Became a Woman, 2010; and Look, 2013.
From the series of Listen (courtesy of Newsha Tavakolian)
From the series of Look (courtesy of Newsha Tavakolian)
Tavakolian works have been collected and exhibited at institutions such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Somerset House, London.
Tavakolian has been a member of the Rawiya women's photography collective, which she co-funded in 2011.
In 2015, Tavakolian won the prestigious Prince Claus Foundation prize, and in the same year she became a nominee member of Magnum Photos as well.