Creative and financial balance, or, what is our award all about anyway?

What if we were to give photographers money to make something they want to make? In other words, provide a platform for the ideas of talented newer professionals who don’t get many opportunities to be creative on their own terms – and pay them for it.

The Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award was dreamt up with such thoughts one rainy afternoon in a London pub three years ago. We aimed to create something positive from the tragedy of Rebecca’s (Beccy’s) death; something that could function as a memorial to Beccy but more importantly, something that addresses a struggle she often faced in her career – the balance between creative work and paying the rent.


Beccy had talent, and a burning desire to photograph what she saw. However, she was forced – as many early-to-mid career artists are – to work in a bar to pay her rent, and to work in non-creative photography roles to progress her career. The photography and photojournalism work that she did undertake typically followed someone else’s rules or agenda. This meant that the ideas Beccy had for stories and for art were all too often stuck in her notebooks; “test images” were buried below files of retouched photos for advertising posters.

Despite the struggle, for four years and in spare pockets of time, Beccy did make her own work. Her day jobs paid her enough that she could test ideas and draft applications. When she tired of commercial photography in the UK she moved to Uganda to undertake photography roles more meaningful to her, such as being staff photographer for a national newspaper.

Beccy often sought funding to realise her ideas. Some notable bursaries for new photographers exist, as well as some substantial awards for firmly established professionals. Those in the middle – photographers working for several years but who are yet to make a full-time living out of their work – have limited options. Beccy, a UK citizen living in Uganda, had even fewer.

We are keen to break down the nationality border with our award. We’re not open to all (our team is far too small for that) but we are open to photographers from the UK, including those who might be living abroad for a while; we are also open to photographers, from anywhere, who live in the UK full-time.

If you are an early-to-mid career photographer or photojournalist with a new idea that focuses on telling an unheard human story then you might be eligible for our memorial award.


Two of Beccy’s work-in-progress images: (left) from Port Bell market series; (right) Alter Ego a multimedia project working with transgender people in Uganda.
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