Our followers voted Iranian photographer Hossein Fardinfard’s image as their favourite of the recent Guardian Editor’s Pick gallery of the best Portrait of Humanity entries so far. Taken in Tbilisi, the image depicts a scene from a national holiday in Georgia, with girls dressed in traditional costume. It captures a moment of togetherness and community, values at the heart of Portrait of Humanity.
Fardinfard, now based in the Netherlands, found photography via an unconventional route. Having studied cartography, Geomorphology and IT, he pursued a career as a web developer before discovering his aptitude for the art form at the age of 30. Initially interested in street photography, his focus eventually shifted onto documentary photography and portraiture. He’s currently undertaking photography research at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Holland.
What are your key interests as a photographer?
Social observation, human rights, and identity. I’m currently working on some long-term projects, like the Post-Soviet Generation project I’m doing in Georgia, which is about changes that the collapse of the Soviet Union has spelled for the country’s youth. I’ve always found that these personal and societal evolutions are fascinating and warrant discussion, and I try to use my camera to observe and document those events.
What is the story behind it the image you entered into Portrait of Humanity?
That photo was taken on Georgia’s national holiday of traditional dress. While you can see people of all ages participating in it, the groups of teenage boys and girls, showing their clothes off to one another, were especially noticeable.
In the middle of the show, a group of teens all dressed in white joined in the parade. I made a few attempts at getting the picture right, to do them justice, but the throngs of people and heavy rain prevented me from getting the shot. Eventually, by following their procession, I was able to get the picture.
Why did you decide to enter the Portrait of Humanity award?
Aside from the prestige of the BJP name, I was moved to apply to Portrait of Humanity for four reasons: to give a more accurate presentation of Georgia, with its beautiful traditions and friendly people; to gauge the standard of my own work relative to that of other professional photographers; to share the stories of what I have seen with others; because succeeding in an award of this level would be a big step forward in my photography career, and such an opportunity doesn’t come around every day.
What do you think makes a compelling portrait?
To my mind, a true portrait is one that tells its own story. Not only the general story of its subject, but the story of that exact moment of their life.
Portraits make up the identity and character of a region or generation, marrying faces to culture and the world at large.
Do you have any advice for other entrants about selecting a portrait to submit and, more generally, about getting into photography to begin with?
For freelance photographers in different parts of the world, participating in a competition of this calibre is really an invaluable opportunity for sharing and presenting their work. Getting feedback from those with more experience is hugely beneficial to young and talented photographers. I’d suggest looking at other high-profile portrait awards, and seeing which images were successful, to help choose which image to submit.
Entries to Portrait of Humanity are now closed. Shortlisted & winning photographers will be announced in May 2019. Learn more about the award here