The first Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award comprised a bursary of £1,200, plus printing, exhibition and mentoring, for an emerging photographer to complete a narrative photography project with a strong social or political context. The award was granted to James Arthur Allen in November 2016 for his project to document the lives and traditions of the ethnic Circassian population in Israel.
The judges – who included Karen McQuaid, senior curator at the Photographers’ Gallery and Matthew Tucker, UK Picture Editor at BuzzFeed – were impressed by James’s detailed knowledge of the complex history of the Circassians, who were expelled from their country in the nineteenth century after the Russian-Circassian War, and the contacts he’d developed in the region. The resulting collection will be exhibited in London in December 2017.
Two further applications were highly commended: David Shaw for his proposal exploring racial divides in Oldham, and Tracey Paddison for her project following a non-binary person through gender reassignment. In addition, shortlisted applicant Joseph Fox received a commission from BuzzFeed as a result of his submission.