Carmignac Photojournalism Award: A retrospective

By Aina Pomar - Friday, November 27, 2015
Carmignac Photojournalism Award: A retrospective

The Fondation Carmignac presented last 18th November at the Saatchi Gallery a retrospective exhibition of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, showing for the first time a selection of the awarded projects since its creation in 2009. With the aim of bringing awareness to issues that may have been forgotten or underrepresented in mainstream news media, this award offers an artistic approach to photojournalism and a platform for it to be displayed both in an exhibition space and in a publication.

Carmignac Photojournalism Award: A retrospective

The Fondation Carmignac presented last 18th November at the Saatchi Gallery a retrospective exhibition of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, showing for the first time a selection of the awarded projects since its creation in 2009.

With the aim of bringing awareness to issues that may have been forgotten or underrepresented in mainstream news media, this award offers an artistic approach to photojournalism and a platform for it to be displayed both in an exhibition space and in a publication. 

Every year the foundation selects a territory and invites applicants to submit their portfolio and project proposal for the region. Areas explored in past editions have been Gaza, Pashtunistan, Zimbabwe, Chechnya, Iran, Lawless Areas in France and in 2015-2016 a project on Lybia will be developed by this year’s laureate, who has already been selected by the jury and whose name will be announced next year.

The winner receives a grant of 50.000 € to develop the project that will be published in a monograph and will be displayed in Paris and abroad.

Newsha Tavakolian, A view of a microphone and an empty stage in Tehran, 2015 © Newsha Tavakolian - Fondation Carmignac

The retrospective at the Saatchi gallery dedicates a special section to the 5th laureate, Newsha Tavakolian. The 33-year-old self-taught photojournalist focused on his own country to create ‘Blank Pages of an Iranian Photo Album’, where she portraits the Iranian middle class of her generation. While researching for her project she met ten people, young Iranians like her, that encounter small tragedies in their daily normal lives. She started photographing them, developing a unique intimate style, keeping herself away from clichés.

One of the most reproduced images of  ‘Blank Pages of an Iranian Photo Album’ is one of a divorced English teacher in Tehran. Born in the bosom of a very conservative family, Sommayeh left her small village near Isfahan to go to Tehran, where she thought she would find her freedom and individuality. There, she found some freedom, and she wanted more. “While she was fighting for her rights, space and personal freedom, she found her boundaries around her”, explains Tavakolian. 

The cover of the book shows a mountain landscape that Tavakolian used to look at as a child dreaming of a bright future. With this project she was determined to show the present time of her subjects. “I asked them all to show me their childhood photo album and I noticed that in all of them, at the same age, their photo album turned blank, there are no images after the age of thirteen or fourteen. The idea that came to my mind was that I wanted to continue these blank pages, to give the impression of their lives now”. 

Newsha Tavakolian, Portrait of Somayyeh, 2015 © Newsha Tavakolian - Fondation Carmignac

Taking the image of the mountain, she produced portraits of each character on video on a mountain outside of Tehran. The surrounding doesn’t look that colourful and bright as the book cover, but gives an honest impression of the people photographed and an inner interpretation of the reality in Iran.

Tavakolian’s relation with the Fondation Carmignac has been publicly conflictive. In September 2014 the foundation announced the postposition of her exhibition and book publication in order to protect the safety of the photographer and her family. The photojournalist renounced to the grant, stepped down as the 2014 winner and posted a statement on her facebook page, where she denied that safety reasons where impeding the execution of the photo essay. She gave to understand the lack of artistic freedom of the award due to the excessive control of Mr Edouard Carmignac, the founder and head of Carmignac Gestion, on the development of the project. 

The debate resulted in a meeting between the jury and Mr Carmignac to agree measures for a positive resolution for both parties. It was decided that from then on the president of the jury of each edition would be the book and show’s chief curator and that Anahita Ghabaian, president of the fifth edition Jury, and Sam Stourdzé, member of the jury, would curate Newsha Tavakolian's project.

Newsha Tavakolian, Qaem shopping mall, 2015 © Newsha Tavakolian - Fondation Carmignac

Newsha Tavakolian, who has recently been nominated to become a member of Magnum, is the first winner of Carmignac Photojournalism Award who was born and still lives in the region chosen by the foundation. She explains that she has to find a way to be a photographer in Iran without compromising her safety or running the risk of being censored. This is partly what makes her work powerful and closer to a photojournalism that compromises with a more analytic and sensitive vision of issues that affect the subjects’ daily lives. She shows glimpses of symbolic violence and helps the viewer to establish strong connections with the characters of the photographs.

Kai Wiedenhöfer, Mona Al Ashqar, 2010 © Kai Wiedenhöfer - Fondation Carmignac

Following the display at the Saatchi Gallery we find a selection of works by the other five laureates. Kai Wiedenhöfer, the first winner of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award (2009-2010) focused his work on Gaza, a territory that he knew well since he lived in the area in 1994 and 1995, a time when the Oslo Accords led to high hopes for peace. He returned to Gaza many times during the following fifteen years, witnessing how the situation was getting worse. His project talks about the results of brutal events, showing both the debris of the Israeli attack in January 2009 and portraits of Palestinian under the siege.


Massimo Berruti, Bara Bandai, 2010, Massimo Berruti / Agence VU' © Massimo Berruti - Fondation Carmignac

The second winner, Massimo Berruti, was also very familiar to the region chosen to develop the project, Pashtunistan, a strategic border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Italian photographer, member of the VU’s agency since 2007, lived in central Asia, mainly Pakistan, for four years, covering the impact of the War on Terror on the population of the region.

The story developed for the Fondation Carmignac documented the life of the Lashkars, a civilian militia historically formed of tribal warriors, recognized by the Pakistan Army for their fight against the Taliban in the Swat Valley.


Robin Hammond, Rosepina, 2012 © Robin Hammond - Fondation Carmignac

Next to his textured black and white photographs we find the dark colour images of Robin Hammond, who was selected by a jury chaired by Susan Meiselas in 2011- 2012 to document the reality of violent decline in Zimbabwe. After 32 years of independence, the promises of freedom and self-determination had turned into slavery under an oppressive dictatorship regime.

Hammond photographed the residents and buildings of Mbare, a suburb of the capital Harare, now full of diseases, fear, crime and political violence; HIV positive population, that in 2011 represented 15% of the population; victims of governmental violence; and the remains of the deteriorated urban and industrial areas. During the development of the project officials caught the photographer twice and he spent 26 days in prison before being declared a “Prohibited Immigrant”.

Davide Monteleone, Rada, 14, trying on a wedding dress designed by her sister, 2013 © Davide Monteleone - Fondation Carmignac


Davide Monteleone, Security forces attending the 10th Constitution Day celebration, 2013 © Davide Monteleone - Fondation Carmignac

Davide Monteleone’s photo essay about Chechnya received the fourth award in 2012-2013. “Chechnya is a really ambiguous place at the moment. It looks really quiet, it is really quiet, but there are a lot of eviction of human rights” he explains. “What I wanted to do was to investigate the identity of people who decide to live in Chechnya after ten years of war and what is going on with this new dictatorship. You have to imagine that they are living in a sort of limbo. What was forbidden before, is now promoted, for example Islam”.

The creative process that he followed was actually based on taking this ambiguity as a starting point, photographing fictional elements that somehow explained reality.


Christophe Gin, Camopi, February 2015 © Christophe Gin for the Carmignac Foundation

The 2014-2015 theme was ‘Law-less areas in France’ and the award went to photographer Christopher Gin, who carried out his work in the French Guiana, where he has worked on many occasions during the past fifteen years. Gin observed how in many regions of Guiana, the French law, rights and codes are illusory. He focused in the territory of Inini, a large colonial territory within the ex-colony, where inhabitants were not recorded in the registers of the civil state in its creation in 1946 and many still doesn’t have a national identity. The area, not very well known internationally, is an example of the regions that the Carmingnac Photojournalism Award want to bring awareness to.

Every year four photographs of the winner’s portfolio are purchased by the Fondation Carmignac to become part of its prestigious collection, which includes pieces by Basquiat, Lichtenstein, Richter and William Klein.

The foundation will open a museum that will contain this art collection currently stored and displayed in the Paris’ offices. The project is being developed in a converted Villa in the Island of Porquerolles, off France’s Azure coast. The Carmignac Fondation has commissioned sculptures to fifteen artists with the aim of merging nature and art in a unique sensorial atmosphere.

In 2016 the exhibition and book of the 7th winner will be presented in France and abroad. Chaired by Brett Rogers, Director of the Photographers’ Gallery in London, the Carmignac Photojournalism Award will focus on an armed zone for the first time, aiming to show the reality of Lybia four years after the fall of the Gaddafi regime in October 2011.

Carmignac Photojournalism Award: A Retrospective, organised by the Carmignac Foundation, is taking place from 18th November - 13th December at the Saatchi Gallery. For further information, visit 

Aina Pomar graduated in Sociology and Photography before completing a Master in New Media Art Curatorship. She has collaborated with Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Majorca and with CCCBLab and Fundació Foto Colectania in Barcelona. She moved to London to work at the Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain, where she coordinated visual arts and exhibition projects with the aim of promoting Spanish culture and artists across the United Kingdom. She currently collaborates with various galleries and art projects in London.

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