James Allen - Winner of the Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award

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."

Photograph taken by Rebecca Vassie in 2008 of National Gas Turbine Establishment (Pyestock) which closed in 2000 (© Rebecca Vassie)

Photograph taken by Rebecca Vassie in 2008 of National Gas Turbine Establishment (Pyestock) which closed in 2000 (© Rebecca Vassie)

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.

From the series Land of Wolves Young girls in national dress prepare to practice traditional Georgian dances at the Georgian National Ballet in Tbilisi. Young Georgians are taught to practice traditional customs and dance as part of their national identity.

From the series Land of Wolves

Young girls in national dress prepare to practice traditional Georgian dances at the Georgian National Ballet in Tbilisi. Young Georgians are taught to practice traditional customs and dance as part of their national identity.

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. 

From the series Land of Wolves The capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi looking towards the great Mountains of the South Caucasus. Lying on the banks of the Mtkvari River the city was founded in the 5th century. Tbilisi'™s proximity to vital trade routes between east and west has made it a prize fought over by rival empires through out history.

From the series Land of Wolves

The capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi looking towards the great Mountains of the South Caucasus. Lying on the banks of the Mtkvari River the city was founded in the 5th century. Tbilisi'™s proximity to vital trade routes between east and west has made it a prize fought over by rival empires through out history.

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.

From the series Land of Wolves Megi & Ana two young Abkhazian IDP'€™s (Internally Displaced People) stand outside the ex soviet hotel they call home, both where born in Tbilisi and though neither has been to Abkhazia they count themselves as displaced. Despite living in the hotel their whole lives the Georgian government still considers the accommodation temporary.

From the series Land of Wolves

Megi & Ana two young Abkhazian IDP'€™s (Internally Displaced People) stand outside the ex soviet hotel they call home, both where born in Tbilisi and though neither has been to Abkhazia they count themselves as displaced. Despite living in the hotel their whole lives the Georgian government still considers the accommodation temporary.

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.