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.
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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.
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.
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.