“I like it when you can tell they had fun making it, that they did it for themselves before anyone else,” says photographer Juno Calypso. “That criteria probably doesn’t apply well to documentary projects but I take pictures of myself in wigs and tacky lingerie, so what do I know?”
She’s a fast-rising star in photography who launched her career with a series of self-portraits playing a fictional character named Joyce, but she’s also helping out as one of the judges of this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards. She likes underdogs and “a photographer or a subject that isn’t already over-represented in the history of photography”, she says but, having been on the other side of the fence, adds that she knows how scary it can be to enter a prize.
”I know how it feels to place all your hopes into a single competition,” she says. “I don’t want to make lazy decisions [when judging]. What I will say though, is even if you do get rejected – keep applying or just do your own thing.”
“One day, which may be sooner than you think, you will succeed and you will find yourself in the same room as the person who rejected you. They will be drunk and talk about their problems, and you will be filled with your own sweet victory.”
Calypso will be joined on the jury by Hayley Louisa Brown (founder & editor of BRICK magazine); Emma Lewis, assistant curator at Tate Modern; Emma Bowkett, director of photography at FT Weekend Magazine; Vivienne Gamble, director at Seen Fifteen Gallery & Peckham 24; Maisie Skidmore, online editor at AnOther; Diana Markosian, photographer at Magnum Photos; and Lisa Farrell, head of exhibitions & events at British Journal of Photography.
Together they’ll pick out the winners for four prizes – for single images and series, in undergraduate and recent graduate categories. “The work has to breathe compassion,” says Markosian, adding that she’s looking forward to seeing work “ less about a series of beautiful images, and more about the humanistic and emotional aspect of the project”.
“I’m looking for the sort work one makes because they can’t imagine not making it…That’s when it feels raw,” states the Armenian-American photographer. In her own practice she’s often driven towards making very personal work, exploring the relationship between memory and place, and the journey she took to find her father – left behind when the family migrated to the United States.
Brown says something similar, stating that what she’s looking for is authenticity. “Every single photographer has a completely unique perspective of the subject they’re capturing and that connection is what makes some images shine more than others to me,” she says. “I like being able to learn things about the photographer from their photographs.”
The BJP Breakthrough Awards are open for entries until 08 May, from undergraduates and those within five years of graduation. For more information, visit Breakthrough Awards.
BJP’s Breakthrough Awards are generously supported by: