Incredible Winners of the 2023 Portrait Photographer of the Year Contest

Portrait by Forough Yavar

“Salvation” by Forough Yavari. Overall winner, International Portrait Photographer of the Year.

Iranian photographer Forough Yavari was honored as the International Portrait Photographer of the Year for a stunning portfolio of work that shows off skills as a fine art and fashion photographer. Based in Melbourne, her photography draws on her life experiences as a woman, with her work portraying the narratives behind the lives of women around the work.

Yavari topped the list of talented amateur and professional portrait photographers who entered this year's contest. Aside from Yavari, winners were also named in four categories—Character Study, Environmental Portrait, Portrait Story, and Family Sitting. All of the portraits have their own unique stories to tell.

Frederic Aranda won the Character Study category for his candid portrait of actor Ian McKellen in his dressing room. Wearing full padding and bright blue eye shadow, the esteemed actor was preparing to tackle the role of Mother Goose in a pantomime in London.

With his beautiful portrait of Alfred and Paul Beck, Joseph Smith shows the close bond of brothers who ran their family printing business for generations. Smith's photograph won the Portrait Story category and is made all the more poignant by the fact that Alfred recently passed away.

Jo Kearney's explorations of Havana paid off with a win in the Environmental Portrait category. Her image of a woman named Sonia is a wonderful glimpse inside the woman's home. Kearney's photograph clearly demonstrates how showing the environmental context of the sitter can bring greater dimension to the work.

All of the winners shared in the contest's $10,000 prize pool and made it into the annual awards book, which will include the top 101 entries.

Discover the talented winners of the International Portrait Photographer of the Year contest.

Actor Ian McKellen in his West End dressing room as he prepared to perform the character of Mother Goose

“Mother Goose” by Frederic Aranda. 1st Place, Character Study.
“Actor 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.”

Beck Brothers inside their printing business

“Beck Brothers” by Joseph Smith. 1st Place, Portrait Story.
“Alfred and Paul Beck took over the family printing business at the ages of 17 and 14, respectively. The brothers stand amongst the machinery that has passed down from generation to generation, reflecting the close bond between the two men. Alfred passed on late last year.”

Woman from Havana photographed in her home

“Sonia Herstandez at home in Havana” by Jo Kearney. 1st Place, Environmental Portrait.
“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.”

House of Gucci Photographed Before Voguing Ball in Paris

“Vogue House” by Frederic Aranda. Character Study, Top 101.
“A family portrait of the House of Gorgeous Gucci, one of the leading “Houses” of the international Ballroom/Voguing scene. A House is a chosen family and members are organised under “Mothers” and “Fathers”, providing each other with support, love and no judgement. Taken in Paris before an annual ball.”

Portrait of a Shepherd

“The Shepherd” by Osama Elolemy. 2nd Place, Portrait Story.
“He is part of a tribe of proud people that believe the Ankole cattle are a gift from their ancestors. They have a sacred duty to protect and care for them. The entire village life revolves around these impressive creatures.”

Aside from the category winners, all of the top 101 photos will be included in the annual awards book.

Portrait of a Black Woman Wrapped in Clothe

“Vanity” by Forough Yavari. Overall winner, International Portrait Photographer of the Year.

Suri Family Portrait

“The Suri Family” by Donell Gumiran. Family Sitting, Top 101.
“The family values communal living and cooperation. They engage in collective tasks such as house construction, field preparation, and herding. Family members often come together for important events, ceremonies, and festivals, where they share food, music, dance, and stories.”

Man living in one bedroom home with family in Havana

“Freddy at home in Havana” by Jo Kearney. Environmental Portrait, Top 101.
“Freddy lives in one room in a colonial house overlooking Havana's iconic Malecon. Before the revolution, one family would have lived in the house, but now there are multiple people and families, each occupying single rooms. Most of the building has collapsed, and the front rooms are like a facade.”

One of the brothers Al Khoury at his cafe in Abu Dhabi aptly named Local.

“Local” by Katarina Premfors. Character Study, Top 101.
“One of the brothers Al Khoury at his cafe in Abu Dhabi aptly named Local.”

Boy Watching Hamer Bull Running Ritual

“Calm Amidst Chaos” by Alan Barker. Environmental Portrait, Top 101.
“A significant part of the Hamer Bull Running ritual involves celebration. Hundred of adults dance and laugh while others brew local liquor and boil water for tea. In the middle of this squats a young boy, left to his own devices, unperturbed by the turmoil around him.”

Creative Father Daughter Family Portrait

“Brad and Harriet” by Raoul Slater. 1st Place, Family Sitting.
“As a parent, all you want is to be listened to.”

Portrait of a Woman

“Susanne” by Suanne Middelberg. Character Study, Top 101.
“Susanne, dancer, actress, photographer”

Geisha Indoors

“Yuki Gomori” by Robin Yong. Environmental Portrait, Top 101.
“Secluded from cold, snowy winter and staying indoors as wild animals hibernate – a Haiku seasonal word.”

Fashion model seemingly levitating

“Levitation 7” by Johanna Siegmann. Portrait Story, Top 101.
“From the series ‘Unrealistic Expectations' – where fashion meets Photoshop.”

Danish Chimney Sweeper

“Hazardous Sweeping” by Ulla Jensen. Portrait Story, Top 101.
“A Danish chimney sweeper.”

Family of Camel Drivers

“The Camel Drivers Family” by Peter Hickson. Family Sitting, Top 101.

International Portrait Photographer of the Year: Website | Facebook | Instagram 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by IPPOTY.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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