New monochromes at the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015

“It’s a new approach to photography!” says Tereza Zelenkova of the inaugural Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, which features three emerging photographers, all of whom shoot in black-and-white.

She’s joking, but it’s striking – but what’s even more striking is how differently they’ve all used it.

Zelenkova’s project, shot in her native Czech Republic, takes a sombre, somehow sinister look at the local landscape, objects and people; Joanna Piotrowska’s work, on the other hand, recreates poses from self-defence manuals in delicate, subtly modulated tones. Matthew Finn, meanwhile, shows images of his mother shot over the very long term; the most straight in style, they nonetheless convey a traumatic time marred by declining mental health.

Devil's Table © Tereza Zelenkova, Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015
Devil’s Table © Tereza Zelenkova, Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015

All three are UK based and within ten years of establishing their photographic careers; as well as winning a place at London’s Jerwood Space, their success in the prize meant they were awarded £5000 each to work on the projects they are exhibiting, and mentored by experts such as Alec Soth, Broomberg & Chanarin and Michael Mack.

“The money was definitely really helpful, but the mentorship was just as good,” says Piotrowska. “If you don’t talk about your work it doesn’t progress, and you don’t really talk about your work with your friends. Usually the last chance you have to openly talk about your work is at college, and then after that you’re on your own. It’s something unique about this prize.

Untitled, from the series Mother (1987-present) © Matthew Finn, Jerwood/Photowords Awards 2015

“My core mentor was Gillian Wearing, which was really amazing,” she continues. “I wrote about her work in my thesis and she’s been one of my favourite artists for a long time. To be able to meet somebody like that, and to not just meet them but to be able to talk to them about my work, gave me so much.”

The exhibition is on show at the Jerwood Space until 13 December, after which it travels to Impressions Gallery, Bradford from 05 January – 19 March 2016. It will then move to Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery. The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards are a new collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Photoworks, supported by Arts Council England. The awards will take place every two years, with the next call for entries opening in autumn 2016.

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Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy