Kirsty Mackay wins the second Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award

We are delighted to announce Kirsty Mackay as the winner of the second annual Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award, for her project investigating the ‘Glasgow Effect’ – the term given to the disparity in health and life expectancy in the city compared to UK averages.


Kirsty Mackay, winner of the second Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award

The award is a bursary of £1,250, plus printing, mentoring and support towards publication or exhibition.

Mackay, Glasgow-born but now resident in Bristol, will explore her own roots and connections to the city while responding to research published last year by NHS Scotland and The Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Lifestyle choices are often blamed for Glasgow’s shorter life expectancy. However, the report found that failed housing policies had created a vulnerability in a city already exposed to deprivation following decline in industry.


Chris, in the close where he used to live in Govanhill, 2017. Early work for ‘The Fish That Never Swam’ by Kirsty Mackay.

Titled ‘The Fish That Never Swam’  – a reference to Glasgow’s coat of arms – and already in progress, Mackay’s subjects will include members of her own family. The award will support Mackay to make a series of further visits to Glasgow, culminating in a three-week residency. In addition to funding, Mackay will receive access to premier print services at Metro Imaging, print partner to the award.

Judges for the award included Karen McQuaid (senior curator, Photographers’ Gallery), Matthew Tucker (BBC news), critic and curator Jennifer Thatcher, photographer Ben Bird and Janet Vassie, Rebecca’s mother. The judges were impressed by Mackay’s strong personal connection to the story, her existing work to date and her depth of insight.

000025 - Version 3

Previous work by Kirsty Mackay, from ‘My Favourite Colour Was Yellow’

Two further applications were highly commended: Dan Burwood for a proposal exploring the complex status of ‘Zambrano’ families, where a single parent born outside the EU has sole responsibility for a child who is a UK citizen; and Kate Stanworth for a proposal following the ‘murga’ street dancers in Argentina. Mackay, Burwood and Stanworth receive membership of Shutter Hub, the online photography network. Also shortlisted from more than 60 applicants were Hugh Kinsella Cunningham, Alis Pelleschi and David Shaw.

Mackay said: “As photographers we so often work by ourselves and in isolation, so to be recognised for this award and supported by the Trust means a great deal to me. In practical terms it will give me the opportunity to finish this project by creating my own residency in the city. The most important factor in this work has always been the time I spend in Glasgow, making the work, but also gaining a more thorough understanding.”

Mackay is a British social documentary and portrait photographer. She gained an MA in documentary photography from the University of Newport and is driven by research-led, self-initiated, long-form projects. Injustice on any scale fuels her work. Her first book, ‘My Favourite Colour Was Yellow’, a project documenting the prevalence of the colour pink amongst young girls in the UK, was published in February 2017. Her work has been published widely including Time, Le Monde, The Telegraph, The Observer and BJP, and exhibited in Cardiff, Glasgow, Bristol, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Krakow, Bologna, St Petersburg and Sicily.


Image of Glasgow by Kirsty Mackay

Rebecca’s mother Janet Vassie, a trustee and one of the judges, said: “Kirsty Mackay’s proposal is filled with passion and comes from the heart. I’m really looking forward to watching her project grow.”

Work funded by the first award is exhibiting in London. James Arthur Allen’s collection ‘Adiga’ documents Israel’s little-known ethnic Circassian population and shows at Tabernacle Gallery, London W11, December 12 to 17.

Metro Logo strapline

print partner

View All


  1. […] the Royal Photographic Society’s International Photography Exhibition. The 2017 Award funded Kirsty Mackay’s project ‘The Fish That Never Swam’, investigating the fraught relationship between health […]

  2. […] winners have explored an Islamic minority in Israel, social deprivation in Glasgow and the role of therapy in post-genocide Rwanda, and shining a fresh light on Britain’s […]

  3. […] awards have been won by projects exploring an Islamic community in Israel, health and housing in Glasgow, therapy for survivors of the Rwandan genocide and defying stereotypes of what it is to be […]

  4. […] 161st edition of the Royal Photographic Society’s International Photography Exhibition. The 2018 Award funded Kirsty Mackay’s project ‘The Fish That Never Swam’, investigating the relationship between health and social housing in Glasgow. For the 2019 Award, […]

  5. […] awards have been won by projects exploring an Islamic community in Israel, health and housing in Glasgow and therapy for survivors of the Rwandan […]

  6. […] International Photography Exhibition. Last year’s award was won by Kirsty Mackay for her project The Fish That Never Swam, investigating the so-called Glasgow effect – the term given to the disparity in life expectancy […]

Comments are closed.