Ian McKellen in drag among the highlights of international portrait competition

International Photography Awards 2023 – Raoul Slater wet plate collodian
(Image credit: Raoul Slater)

Forough Yavari, an acclaimed fine art photographer based in Melbourne, Australia, has been announced as the International Portrait Photographer of the Year 2023. Recognized for her compelling portraits that encapsulate the diverse narratives of women worldwide, Yavari draws inspiration from her personal journey as a woman and the experiences she’s encountered along the way. 

Born in Iran during its turbulent revolution, Yavari's artistic journey began with childhood sketches and later led her to study painting. A chance modeling stint for a photography student sparked her passion for photography, culminating in a unique blend of artistic influences.

• Make sure to use the best portrait lenses for perfect people pics 

Relocating to Australia in 2011, Yavari established herself as an international photographer. Her work, heavily influenced by her identity as a Middle Eastern woman, gave rise to series like Revision of Portraits, Eternal Icons and Salvation, addressing women's issues and showcased in galleries across Iran and Australia. 

Actor Sir Ian McKellen in his West End dressing room as he prepared to perform the character of Mother Goose, in a Pantomime of the same name. Duke of York's Theatre, London, UK (Image credit: Frederica Ananda)

Combining technical finesse with artistic vision, Yavari draws inspiration from historic artists like Rembrandt and contemporary photographers such as Shirin Neshat, merging their influences into her portraiture.

Participating in the International Portrait Photographer of the Year competition, Yavari is "encouraged to explore diverse approaches, subjects and techniques which enhances my creative abilities enabling me to refine my craft further." Winning the award has given her confidence and opened new opportunities to explore portrait photography.  

Other category winners include UK photographer Frederic Aranda, who has two decades of experience and came first in the Character Study category for a photo of Sir Ian McKellen – taken in his dressing room wearing a full face of make-up, fake breasts and gold briefs dressed as Mother Goose.  Jo Kearney came out on top in the Environmental category for her photo of Sonia in her Havana home, which offered a glimpse into the past with antique furniture and a collection of knick-knacks.

"I walked past Sonia's home in Havana and she was happy to let me come in and photograph her. I loved the old furniture and decorations" (Image credit: Jo Kearney)

Maltese photographer Joseph Smith won the Portrait Story category for his image of brothers and partners Paul and Alfred Beck, who ran a printing company that Smith himself has frequently used. Taking over the business at just 14 and 1 years old respectively, following the death of their father, the pair became long-term friends of the photographer. 

Finally Australian photographer Raoul Slater won the Family Sitting category for a series of Collodian wet plates with natural flaws. Using this medium was a way of honoring his late father, who handed over his photography gear in 1979 when he became a full-time illustrator. Slater loves the flaws in the photos and takes inspiration from the likes of Sally Mann, Vivian Maier and Dianne Arbus when capturing these stunning portraits. 

For more on the winners, runners-up and their photography, visit the International Portrait Photographer website.

As a parent, all you want is to be listened to. (Image credit: Raoul Slater)

Take a look at the best cameras for portraits, along with these portrait photography tips, to get the most out of your portraiture. 

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.