We are delighted to be working with University College Falmouth graduate, James Allen, as the winner of The Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award for his project documenting the lives and traditions of the ethnic Circassian population in Israel. James was one of the first featured photographers on the Photograd platform and you can read his Feature here.
As the winner of the award, James will be mentored by Bette Lynch, Director of Photography, news, Europe, Middle East and Africa at Getty Images, who was also part of the judging process. He also receives access to premier printing services at Metro Imaging, print partner to the award. James will travel to Israel in January; “It is a huge privilege to be selected for the inaugural Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award. I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to make new work and collaborate with the Trust over the coming months."
Before James gets going with his new work and mentorship, we caught up with him to find out more about his ideas and aspirations. We've selected some images by James from his series Land of Wolves to give an idea of his style before we show his completed series of work made as a result of the award in a future Spotlight. We're excited to follow his journey.
Introduction: My name is James Allen and I’m a photographer living in Bath, UK. My work focuses strongly on social issues, from the geo politics and conflicts of the South Caucuses to PTSD and the realities of living with mental health issues. I graduated from University College Falmouth in 2012 with a First Class Honours degree in Press and Editorial Photography. I am currently studying a part time masters in Documentary Photography at University South Wales and have been lecturing on the BA Photography course at Bath Spa University.
Your Work: In 2014 I travelled to Georgia and Abkhazia on a research trip of the region and was fascinated by the area and its people, it was on this initial trip I made a body of work Land of Wolves. On my return I read a lot of books and travelogues about the region and stumbled across the Circassians; a prominent nation in the region that was expelled after a bloody war with the Russian Empire in 1864. The diaspora spread across the ottoman empire after allying them selves with the Turks. A small population of Circassians can be found in the North of Israel where they have maintained there culture and traditions. It is my plan to explore their folklore, traditions and place in the modern world.
The Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award: As I’m sure many recent graduates know, the hardest thing about turning ideas and projects into a reality is funding, it’s hard enough to earn enough money to keep yourself on your feet let alone fund work. This is where the Rebecca Vassie Award has really helped. I have the chance now to make work and an amazing platform to show it on. The opportunities and mentorship program have also made the planning, and nuts and bolts of this project easier to map out.
Opportunities: The work is the start of something bigger in terms of my exploration of the people of the Caucauses. I also hope it will greatly inform my practice nearer to home. I’m looking forward to the exhibition in March but equally trying not to think about it to much. My main focus is to concentrate on my preparation and delivery of the project.