This article by Claire Guillot appeared in Le Monde on October 4th, 2014. We would like to thank the editors of Le Monde and the author for allowing us to republish it here.
Is the controversy over? Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian, winner of the fifth Prix Carmignac, has reversed her decision to return the award and its 50,000€ prize.
The Fondation Carmignac created a stir with its September 9th decision to postpone the exhibition and the publication of its book—without informing the prize’s jury—citing pressure from Iranian authorities. Tavakolian disputed this version of events and denounced Édouard Carmignac’s interference in the project.
With the upcoming exhibition of the 2013 winner, Davide Monteleone, scheduled to open at London’s Saatchi Gallery on October 11th and promising to revive the controversy, the foundation attempted to resolve the crisis by inviting members of the jury to meet in person or via videoconference in Paris. “There was a desire to find a solution,” says Sam Stourdzé, jury member and the new director of the Rencontres d’Arles photo festival, emphasizing that the jury would, “remain vigilant.”
Mr. Stourdzé, former director of the Musée de Lausanne, had previously dealt with a similar problem in 2012, when Lacoste, the sponsor of another prize, excluded the work of finalist whom it judged too pro-Palestinian. The prize was cancelled.
Following allegedly heated discussions between jury members and Édouard Carmignac, known as a patron with strong opinions, participants finally agreed on a new set of prize rules. It was decided that the jury president would also serve as the curator of the winning photographer’s exhibition, a decision that significantly increases the jury’s power.
It was also put forward that the curation of Tavakolian’s exhibition and book be entrusted to Sam Stourdzé and Iranian gallerist and jury president Anahita Ghabaian Ettehadieh, a proposal that a controversy-weary Tavakolian was quick to accept. “The foundation has taken a major step forward,” she said by telephone. “All that I ask is for my artistic freedom to be respected. And I believe the planned changes will be beneficial both to me and to future winners of the prize, who will feel more confident in their work.”
Independent curator Christian Caujolle, a member of the jury since the prize’s inception, was delighted. “At a time when photographers are struggling to find funding, the prize will continue supporting new works of investigative documentary photography,” he said.
After this apparent happy ending, it remains to be seen if the Prix Carmignac can maintain the trust of photographers and of next year’s jury, one of which told Le Monde that they were turned off by the episode and would reconsider their participation. The theme of next year’s Prix Carmignac will be so-called “no-go areas” in France.
© Le Monde