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Breakthrough Awards 2017: getting the inside track from the judges

© Diana Markosian, courtesy of Magnum Photos

BJP's award for photographers studying or recently graduated has a stellar line-up of judges this year - but what does it take to impress them?

“A good project could be one of many different things,” says Vivienne Gamble, director at Seen Fifteen Gallery and Peckham 24. “Sometimes it will be the story that the photographer is telling that sets their project apart. The storytelling power of photography is one of the reasons that I’m most drawn to the medium.

“I’m drawn to experimental projects, and to artists who are playing with or pushing the boundaries of photography,” she continues. “When it comes to choosing projects to show in the gallery, I look for ones that are going to expand beyond the confines of the gallery walls.”

Gamble is one of the judges for this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards, along with Emma Lewis, assistant curator at Tate Modern, Diana Markosian, photographer at Magnum Photos; Emma Bowkett, director of photography at FT Weekend Magazine; Maisie Skidmore, online editor at AnOther; Juno Calypso, artist; Hayley Louisa Brown, founder and editor of BRICK magazine and Lisa Farrell, head of exhibitions and events at British Journal of Photography.

Now in their third edition, there are four awards up for grabs with prizes for single images and series, in both undergraduate and recent graduate categories.

A visitor to the 2016 Breakthrough Awards exhibition admires Jan McCullough's installation. Image © BJP

A visitor to the 2016 Breakthrough Awards exhibition admires Jan McCullough’s installation. Image © BJP

For Gamble, the Breakthrough Awards offer a window on particularly interesting project execution because of their focus on emerging artists. For her, the cutting edge is usually where it’s at. “I’ll be looking for a project that either stands out because it’s teaching me something new, or because the photographer is using photography in an exciting or innovative way,” she says.

Maisie Skidmore echoes her words. “I’m looking for something original, something I’ve never seen before,” she says. “That sense of freshness can exist in the tiniest shred of an early idea, but when it’s real it permeates through the whole project. You can’t miss it.” Skidmore adds that she’s looking for photographers who can take a “time-honoured format”, and push it to show new depths. “That fresh, alternate perspective on an established idea feels very exciting to me at the moment,” she says.

“I’ll be looking for work which shows both visual flair and conceptual confidence,” says Lisa Farrell. “For me, seeing a clear line of enquiry in someone’s work is just as important as a sophisticated visual style. I look forward to seeing images which provoke discussion and have a well considered and consistent visual language.”

Whether you’re currently studying  – photography or something else –  or within five years of graduation, our judges are looking forward to seeing your work.

Enter this year’s awards.

A Dream In Green, 2015, from the series Joyce II: The Honeymoon Suite @ Juno Calypso

From the series 1915, Yepraksia © Diana Markosian

From the series 1915, Yepraksia © Diana Markosian, courtesy of Magnum Photos

Me First Mutant (photography printed on metal and then burned), 2016 @ Maya Rochat, who is represented by the Seen Fifteen Gallery

Me First Mutant (photography printed on metal and then burned), 2016 @ Maya Rochat, who is represented by the Seen Fifteen Gallery.

Opening of Maya Rochat Give Me Space at Seen Fifteen Gallery, December 2016 © Seen Fifteen, courtesy of the gallery

Opening of Maya Rochat Give Me Space at Seen Fifteen Gallery, December 2016 © Seen Fifteen, courtesy of the gallery.

BJP’s Breakthrough Awards are generously supported by:

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JULY 2017 ISSUE:

“As soon as a human being is involved there is no objectivity.” We pay Thomas Struth a studio visit #BJP #July17

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