A self-taught photographer born in 1981 and based in Tehran, Newsha Tavakolian began working professionally in the Iranian press at age of 16, at the women's daily newspaper Zan. At the age of 18, she was the youngest photographer to cover the 1999 student uprising.

In 2002 she started working internationally, covering the war in Iraq. She has since covered regional conflicts, natural disasters and created social documentary projects.

In 2009 Tavakolian covered the Presidential elections in Iran, which ended up in chaos and forced her to temporarily halt her photojournalistic work. Instead she started working on projects that experts describe as a mix of social documentary photography and art.

Her work ranges from reportage of political events to portraits and series on socially-engaged topics.

Her photographs and projects have been published internationally by global media organizations, NGO's and fine art magazines.

Newsha's work has been widely exhibited at international institutions, including Victoria & Albert Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), British Museum and Boston Museum of Fine Art.

In 2014 Tavakolian was the fifth laureate of the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award. In 2015 she was the principle laureate of the Prince Claus Award.

Tavakolian became a Magnum Associate in 2017.