For the judges of the BJP Breakthrough undergraduate awards – Gemma Padley, Lewis Chaplin and Sebastian Richter – it was the boy’s expression in Adama Jalloh’s image that caught their attention.
Staring straight at the camera, the boy, who is around 13-years-old according to Jalloh, looks confident, almost defiant, and is standing tall; but his expression also betrays a hint of wariness and vulnerability. Jalloh, who is in her final year of a BA photography degree at Arts University Bournemouth, took the image on a street in south London, close to where she lives in Peckham.
The image is part of a series, You fit the description, that looks at young black and Asian men in London who are likely to be stopped, questioned and searched by police, Jalloh explains. “I randomly approached young men on the street and asked whether they’d ever been stopped and searched, and how they felt about it,” says Jalloh.
“It’s one of those things they have to go along with – they’re given weird, vague reasons as to why they’re being stopped, and aren’t allowed to say how they feel. This boy told me that lots of his friends are stopped by the police on a regular basis,” she adds.
“It’s quite sad really, but many have a very negative view of the police because they are being stopped [on account of the way they are dressed or the colour of their skin].
“This is my favourite image from the series,” she says. “Usually you don’t see the photographer in the image, but I like how you can see my shadow on the boy’s chest. I’m part of the image too, telling the story.”