Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award 2020

This award is now closed. The closing date was 5pm on Friday, 27 March 2020.

Award information for reference below.

*We are in the process of organising online judging and interviews in light of current social distancing recommendations due to COVID-19. We do appreciate that the timescale for your projects may (now) be affected.

What is it?

A £2000 cash bursary, plus additional benefits, for a professional photographer to undertake a narrative photography project in 2020.

The winner receives:

  • £2000 to cover all costs (including personal fee) for the project
  • Twenty 12×16 premier prints of the work, worth £1000 (or equivalent print order by agreement) from Metro Imaging plus lab tour and portfolio review with creative director Steve Macleod
  • Support from the Trust throughout the project, and promotion of your work through our online channels
  • Travel expenses (within the UK) for project meetings in London with the Trust and Metro Imaging
  • Membership of Shutter Hub

Who can apply?

The award is open to photographers who are either (i) UK citizens or (ii) currently resident in the UK.

The award is for photographers at early-to-mid career stage. By this we mean a working professional photographer, probably trained, with some experience, but who does not yet earn a full living wage from their preferred style of photographic work.

There is no age limitation, and no requirement for art school or university education.

We warmly encourage photographers from culturally diverse backgrounds, those whose gender identity is non-binary, and those with disabilities.

Please note that we do not fund current undergraduates, or full-time students on any course. We also do not fund work that forms part of a postgraduate degree.

What are we looking for?

We will fund a stills photography project that is either brand new, or in its earliest stages, and which you can undertake by the end of 2020. The Trust must be the primary funder of the project and we will not fund projects that are already well underway. Therefore, you should apply with a project of suitable size for a £2000 bursary. 

We’ve used the word ‘narrative’ to describe the kind of photography we want to fund. This is because what’s most important to us is to tell human stories within a social or political context. While this is often approached through documentary photography or photojournalism, we are also open to photographers who work across genres such as fine art or portraiture.

How to apply

Application is through an online form – click here to open it. To complete this form you will require a Google account. If you don’t have one, you will be prompted to create one (don’t worry, it’s free!).

On this form you will be asked to answer some questions about you and your proposed project, to upload a PDF file with examples of your previous work, and to provide contact details for 2 referees. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the questions you’ll be asked, and the word limits for your answers – see Application questions below.

The deadline for applications is Friday, 27 March 2020 at 5pm

Have a look at our FAQs and Tips for applying below.

If you feel you need help with your application, or would like to informally discuss your idea with us before applying, please do get in touch.

Application questions

You’ll be asked for the following, with maximum word counts indicated. As applications are anonymised before being considered by judges, you are asked not to include obvious personal information (such as your name!) in your answers.

  • What is the title of your project?
  • In one sentence please describe your project (up to 25 words)
  • Pitch your idea to us: What do you want to photograph? Why is this story important to you? (up to 200 words)
  • What (if any) steps have you taken towards starting this project? (up to 75 words)
  • What is the proposed timeline or plan for completing your project by the end of 2020? (up to 100 words)*
  • How will you use the £2000 bursary? Please provide a list with a breakdown of your project costs. (See Tips for applying below for examples)
  • What would you subsequently hope to do with images created through this bursary (e.g. exhibition, photobook, pitch to magazines)? (up to 75 words)
  • Tell us about your career to date (education/training, commissions/employment, other bursaries/awards) (up to 100 words)
  • Why do you need this bursary? What will getting this bursary do for your practice and your career? (up to 100 words)
  • You will then be asked to upload a PDF document with up to 6 images that you feel best reflect your practice. The maximum file size is 10MB. The filename should be your name, in the format FirstnameSurname.pdf e.g. JoeBloggs.pdf. The PDF should contain one image per page. A brief (single-sentence) caption is permitted for context. As applications are considered anonymously, your name should not appear in the caption – only in the filename.

*we generally expect projects to be completed within 6-8 months, obviously some may not start until the new year now.

Tips for applying

Judges will be looking for:

  1. A compelling story or idea
  2. Passion and personal investment in the work
  3. A project that suits the budget and timescale
  4. Compatibility with Rebecca Vassie’s values and interests

You will be asked for a breakdown of how you would spend the £2000. Here are a couple of examples of the kinds of things you might put depending on the nature of your project:

budget eg

Judging process

Applications are anonymised before they are considered. Therefore, we ask that you do not provide obvious identifying information (e.g. personal website URL) in the text of your answers – only in the “About You” section at the beginning.

Applications are considered first by the Trustees, who draw an initial longlist of around 12. From this longlist, a shortlist of around 6 applicants will be called to interview with the judges. Interviews will be held in London, on the afternoon of Saturday, 2 May 2020. We can contribute to travel costs if you are coming from elsewhere in the UK. If you are abroad or cannot get to London, you can be interviewed by Skype.

This year, our judges are:

  • Caroline Hunter (picture editor, Guardian Weekend Magazine)
  • Jennifer Thatcher (critic and curator)
  • Phil Coomes (picture editor, BBC News Online)
  • Adam Barnard (trustee)
  • Janet Vassie (trustee)

Whatever the outcome, all applicants can expect to hear from us by the end of April.


I’m currently doing a part-time Masters in photography. Can I apply? Yes, providing your project does not form part of your degree work.

I have completed a set of photographs. Can I apply for funds towards an exhibition or photobook? No, this award exists to fund new photography projects from the outset.

I have an existing project that I want to develop. Can I apply? Probably not, since we are funding work that is either new or in its earliest stages. Please get in touch if you’re unsure.

Your first award offered an exhibition. Is this still part of the award? No. Photographers have told us that the most important thing is to have more money to create new work. We’ve increased our cash award from £1,250 to £2,000.

I don’t live in the UK. Can I apply? Yes, if you are a British citizen. You must hold a British passport and a British bank account, and be available for Skype meetings with the Trust.

I live in the UK but am not a British citizen. Can I apply? Yes, providing you can demonstrate that you are currently resident in the UK and likely to remain resident beyond 2020. You will need a British bank account.

I work as part of a collaborative partnership. Can we make a joint application? We are open to 2-person partnerships applying, but not to larger groups or collectives.

Can I apply with more than one project idea? You can, but part of our judging criteria is your passion and personal investment in the project. If your focus seems too divided that may not help your case.

Small print

  1. The winner will receive £2,000 to be used exclusively for the completion of the proposed project. Money will be released in phases, contingent on evidence of progress with the project. The winner will need to document their need for and use of funds, supplying invoices and receipts.
  2. The winner will be asked to sign a formal agreement with the Trust, including a schedule of work and a series of progress meetings.
  3. The Trust reserves the right to use the names of longlisted and shortlisted candidates, including the winner and any runners-up, in promotional material.

  4. The copyright for all images created through this award remains with the photographer. However, the support of the Trust must be acknowledged in any subsequent exhibition, presentation, publication or other display or usage of images resulting from the award.

  5. The Trust will retain the right to use, publish and display images resulting from the award, credited to the winner, in promotional material.

Questions? Get in touch.

Ready to apply? Click here.