Jerwood/Photoworks Awards: A Big Opportunity for Burgeoning Talent
Now in their fourth edition, the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards are a major commissioning opportunity, assisting early-career photographers in the development of their practice. Described by Photoworks Director, Shoair Mavlian, as a “unique opportunity for early-career photographers to make new work and test ideas in a supportive environment”, this year’s awards offer two artists the opportunity to secure £15,000 of funding. In addition, the award offers a two-person exhibition at Jerwood Space in London and a UK touring exhibition, alongside mentorship and curatorial support from an international pool of experts.
In the past, Jerwood/Photoworks Awards have been won by a wide range of developing photographers, including Contemporary Heroines Tereza Zelenkova and Lua Ribeira. In 2015, Tereza was one of three artists awarded the then £5,000 award, supporting her to produce the acclaimed, mysterious and haunting body of work, A Snake That Disappeared Through a Hole in The Wall.
The series, produced in Tereza’s home country of the Czech Republic, explores the lasting bonds we feel with our primordial homes. The artist researched landmarks and legends, seeking out landscapes that offered echoes of their histories – histories with which she felt deeply connected. The resulting body of work is profoundly reflective, often melancholic, and – at times – distinctly eerie. However, despite the other-worldly qualities of this series, there is nothing indistinct about the photographs themselves. The analogue, black and white images are stark, bold, and disarming, yet each seems to whisper the mythologies of its landscape.
Realised via the production fund and mentoring of the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, A Snake That Disappeared Through a Hole in The Wall was shown in a group exhibition at Jerwood Space in 2015. The exhibition later toured throughout the UK and was displayed at Foam (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) in 2018. Since receiving the award, Tereza’s wider practice has been exhibited in London, Prague and Canada and examples of her work can now be found in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum and Saatchi Gallery, London. Tereza’s most recent project, Dead Language, continues to elevate the ghostly aesthetic seen in previous works, while also presenting a reimagined approach to narrative.
Two years after Tereza, in 2017, Lua Ribeira became the next Heroine to receive the Jerwood/Photoworks Award. Selected from over 350 applicants, the award supported Lua to produce the series Subida al Cielo (Ascent into Heaven). A departure from her previous practice, the often unsettling and dream-like body of work explores mortality, suffering, and the fear of death. Invoking thoughts of mythological creatures, angels, apparitions, and utopic gardens, Lua interrogates the morality of her own Catholic upbringing. The images, somewhat varied in composition, are united by their religious symbolism and unified in their allegorical exploration of human experience.
Since receiving the award, Lua’s work has been exhibited at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, Ffotogallery Cardiff, Belfast Exposed gallery, Beijing International Photography Biennale and many more. In 2017, Lua was selected to appear in The British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch, The Talent Issue and since 2018, Lua has been represented by Magnum Photos. Discussing her experiences of the Jerwood/Photoworks Award in 2017, Lua told Photoworks; “The mentoring and the financial help I think is really important, because it’s actually giving you the chance to spend time on your work, and that is rare. I think it’s really interesting, the confidence that it gives you, the fact that someone is giving you an opportunity to spend time with your work – that they want to see what you can do. All that, I think, it makes you grow”.
Since their inception, the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards have supported photographers working across a broad range of disciplines, narratives, and concepts. In 2020, artist Theo Simpson’s commission, Dark Interlude, explored the natural and industrial landscape. Working across various photographic and engineering techniques, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, Theo’s practice is primarily concerned with the evolution of environments. In a space between the real and the imagined, Dark Interlude offers new perspectives on industrial land, employing archival imagery and angular ‘fractures’ to highlight key social, economic, and ideological moments in modern history.
In the same year, awardee Silvia Rosi’s commission, Encounter, explored her personal family history, drawing on her Togolaise heritage to offer a deconstruction of traditional head carrying techniques. Via stylised and engaging self-portraits, Silvia learns and performs the historic practice, exploring its skill, ritual, and aesthetic. Reflecting on her experience of creating this body of work, Silvia explained; “Experimentation has been a great part of my process with the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards. With the Awards I was given the opportunity to experiment, make mistakes and learn about my practice in the making, with great support and mentoring”.
This year, The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards are particularly seeking to encourage artists exploring new approaches to photography. “We are looking forward to being challenged and surprised by how artists are experimenting with this art form and exploring what photography can be today. We have developed our guidance materials to be more accessible and to help artists decide if it’s the right moment for them to apply, and are particularly excited to welcome proposals from those who may not have considered applying before.”, explained Lilli Geissendorfer, Director of Jerwood Arts.
The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards are open to artists who have been practising for between one and ten years, have no age limit or entrance fee, and will be judged by a selection panel including art historian, critic, and curator Christine Eyene, photographer Sunil Gupta, and artist Joy Gregory. Applications are open now and can be submitted until 12th May 2021. For more information, or to apply for the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, visit jerwoodarts.org.
all images courtesy of Jerwood/Photoworks