Breakthrough's past winners explain how the award propelled them to the next level

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The Breakthrough Awards offer an invaluable opportunity for emerging photographers – with winning work being showcased to some of photography’s most influential figures at the Free Range Graduate Shows, featured in British Journal of Photography’s print and online channels and displayed worldwide on leading file-transfer website, WeTransfer.

We caught up with the inaugural crop of Breakthrough winners – Felix von der Osten, Adama Jalloh, Tanya Houghton and Tim Pearse (Undergraduate Series Award, Undergraduate Single Image Award, Graduate Series Award and Graduate Single Image Award winners, respectively) – to ask how Breakthrough has winning the award has pushed their career and artistic practice to the next level.

How did the Breakthrough Award help advance your career?

FELIX VON DER OSTEN: It exposed my work to all different kinds of people [in the UK]. Breakthrough really helped get my name out there as a new emerging photographer.

ADAMA JALLOH: It definitely helped with my work being acknowledged by more people and them showing interest in other projects I’m working on. Emma Bowkett, the photo editor of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine, saw my image at the breakthrough Awards exhibition and since then I’ve been shooting for them – she also nominated me for the Foam Paul Huf Award which I’m grateful for. Being able to actually meet, connect and receive advice from photographers/curators that I’ve admired for years from afar has been helpful and amazing too.




TANYA HOUGHTON: The exposure that winning the Breakthrough award offered has helped my work gain greater traction. Through others seeing my work, it opened up access to opportunities to collaborate with other creatives, writers and academics. This has enabled me the freedom to create more work that I feel passionate about and provide me the trust from others to produce the work that I believe in.

TIM PEARSE: Professionally, winning Breakthrough has been amazing – I have received creative commissions, a lot of industry exposure and many opportunities to exhibit my work. I also think that the confidence boost that winning the award gave me with regards to my practice has been incredible.


From the series The Buffalo that could not Dream © Felix von der Osten
From the series The Buffalo that could not Dream © Felix von der Osten
From the series The Buffalo that could not Dream © Felix von der Osten
From the series The Buffalo that could not Dream © Felix von der Osten

Has your work been exhibited or published elsewhere since winning?

FELIX VON DER OSTEN: The Breakthrough award was the beginning of quite a journey for my project. After I won, the project was quickly picked up by a lot of photography magazines and websites. It set the foundation to me being named an Emerging Photographer by PDN, my project being shown in German museums, at Delhi Photo Festival (and now at the Chennai Photo Biennale) and helped get me into the Eddie Adams Workshop, where I was able to show it to some of the most well known editors and photographers.

ADAMA JALLOH: Since Breakthrough my work has been featured in FT Weekend Magazine, PYLOT Magazine, Dazed and Confused and BuzzFeed. A few months back I was part of a Southbank Centre exhibition called ‘Acts of Looking’ which revolved around projections onto the Royal Festival Hall by female artists that explored themes of African diaspora and culture. My work was also included in an exhibition called ‘Past, Present, Future: An Ode to Black British Artistry’ which focused on heightening the visibility of Black British artists.




TANYA HOUGHTON: Since winning, I have exhibited with an artist-led collective called Drift, been invited to discuss my work at a conference in Lisbon and have been invited to become a member of the Urban Photographers Association, whose practitioners explore concepts around the representation of urban space. I have also just been invited to be the festival artist for The Urban Photo Fest this year, run in conjunction with Goldsmiths and Tate.


AdamaJalloh - Portrait high res copy-1
You fit the description © Adama Jalloh