Review – Guest Speaker Forough Yavari

Guest Speaker – Thursday 18 March 2020


Forough (pronounced foo-roo) is an award-winning portrait and fine art photographer based in Brisbane.
Some of Forough’s many awards include the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) Master of Photography received in 2018 and WPPI Master of Photography awarded in 2019. Forough also achieved a Double Master of Photography from WPPI in 2020. Please refer to for further details on the numerous awards she has received both in Australia and internationally.

Commencing the Storytelling Journey

Forough took us on a journey outlining her early years and the events that have shaped her approach to Storytelling Portraiture. Born in Shiraz, Iran during the revolution between Iran and Iraq to parents who were politically active, Forough was constantly exposed to political and social debates amongst friends and family – which in turn shaped her interest in storytelling.

During the war from 1980 onwards, the cities in Iran and Iraq were constantly bombed, forcing the general population to rush to air raid shelters often with a high degree of panic. Work places and schools were also closed. These times were very frightening, particularly for children and so to lighten up the mood – parents would put on exhibitions for family and friends to distract from the war by teaching the children to draw and paint and use imagination to promote a lighter mood.

Forough’s childhood changed when she turned nine, which was the time where it is mandatory for all girls to cover their faces with the hajib when they were with men who were not related (for religious reasons). This had a huge impact on Forough as she was required to cover her hair and wear a specific uniform and not play with boys – she found she couldn’t get used to this and struggled to understand this rule. She often got her parents into trouble because of her views – however her parents always supported her even though harsh punishments were imposed for not complying.

After the war the family moved to Tehran (capital of Iran) – Forough commenced Arts at University including theatre (which she found was not her thing!) – she then to changed to painting – however the theatre shaped the beginnings of her theatrical imagery.

Forough then fell in love with photography through interaction with student friends and worked in a modelling studio which changed her whole approach.  Not having her own camera for years – she would hire a camera and a model and develop in the University darkroom until her father gave her a Nikon FM10 with 35-70mm lens – and so began her photographic journey.

An Amazing Series of Works

Forough has progressed through five main series of works which are briefly described below including some examples. I recommend that you visit to view these amazing works.  “Wow” is the best way to describe her work.

1.     Experiencing Composite and Manipulation in Adobe Photoshop

  • In 2008 she commenced working with and combining photos with drawing and painting in Adobe Photoshop. 
  • 2009 – Revision of Portrait – her first digital exhibition.

2.     Revolution

  • Forough began looking more critically at political and social issues. The people in the streets were often confronted with military – making her more aware of the current issues – and the subject of her works transferred to social statements
    Image (19/20 on FY’s website) provides an example of her work during this series which contains several symbols such as paper planes made from newspapers – symbolising the bombarding of people with radical views – brain washing – whilst the arm across the body indicates that the subject is protecting herself (this was an AIPP entrant).

3.     War and Migration

  • The works in this series were created over the last 9 – 10 years (ideas for new works added to the series were formed from news pictures or movies).
  • In 2019 the image, Hope Displaced was created (image 7/20 on FY’s website) based on the key theme of migration as Iran is such a multi-cultural country. War Refugees were forced to leave their own countries and often to dangerously escape by sea with the first victims in war usually being women and children, not only in the current generation but also future generations. This image portrays the women worrying about the future of the little girl, with the camera levelled at the child’s eye as the anchor point of image (taken on Nikon D800E, 50mm lens).

4.     Women’s Rights

  • Ninety percent of Forough’s portrait subjects are women – this is based on her experience in living in Iran where women were constantly exposed to discrimination – however her own family were always open minded and supportive. Inequality was so obvious in society that women needed to fight for their own rights all the time.
  • The Uprise created in 2018 (image 4/20 on FY’s website) with the main subject previously being married young to a controlling husband. After divorcing her husband, she experienced tough times, but her life eventually changed. This triggered the idea in Forough’s mind – illustrating the model fighting against the pressure of society.
  • Symbols are very important in Forough’s works – and she uses universal symbols (i.e. making the image readable to an audience through symbols). For example, the woman kneeling and pushing towards away the symbol of patriarchal society – an uprising and the roots near her foot showing strength.

5.     Pandemic and Confronting Loss

  • This series is based on the current pandemic situation and Forough loss of her dad due to cancer whilst living away from most family members
  • The Loneliness of Grief – Dec 2019 (image 3/20 on FY’s website) illustrates her sister struggling with grief
  • Solitude (image 1/20 on FY’s website) has won many awards with many people connecting to it. Forough started on this work during the pandemic when border closures commenced, and she became disconnected from family and friends – along with the with scary news updates and panic shopping – making her feel powerless to help her family. Using white body paint and a white background with a camera on a self-timer (9 shots with 2 second intervals to allow for movement), she captured all her feelings– confronting loss, feeling helpless and scared a white background

Other Facts:

  • Forough always prints all her works to check the colour palette and brightness in standard light to make sure there is no banding as well as testing the results on printing on different types of paper.
  • Adobe Photoshop Skills – as a student, Forough took up a graphic designer job and learned the software by experience as the software was new in Iran at the time and no classes or online content was available.  She now teaches online (fine art photos and how to find inspiration and light setup) so check her website for details.
  • Lenses Used: In her small studio (50mm), Group Photos (24-70mm) – up to 30 people and Fashion Portraits (70-200mm)


By Kerry Hall

The video is available on the Members Video Library page