Simone Sapienza won the Undergraduate series prize at the Breakthrough Awards 2016 with an astonishingly assured debut, Charlie surfs on Lotus Flowers. Shot in Vietnam, it explores a country that effectively defeated the US in an exhausting war, then adopted unbridled capitalism to become a new Asian tiger.
“Vietnam was all built in my imagination but just thanks to the cinema, through movies like Apocalypse Now,” Sapienza explains. “I was curious to see what the country that defeated the US looked like.”
It was a precocious start for someone just leaving university, but then Sapienza had already made inroads into the photography world the year before, launching the Gazebook Sicily Photobook Festival in 2015. It’s now in its third year, and has hosted photographers as well known as Martin Parr.
After graduating from Newport, Sapienza returned to Sicily, where he joined the Minimum photo studio, which he runs with our other members. It’s an “atypical and transversal” place, he says, through which the photographers organise events and create new photo projects individually and collectively; it’s also based in Palermo, where “there is great potential to create a long-term cultural texture”.
Sapienza is now researching a new project set in Sicily, but in the meantime returned to Vietnam in April “to continue and deepen the project awarded by the BJP“. The series has also been widely shown over the past year – published in Io Donna and Pagina99 in Italy, Al Jazeera and GUP Magazine, and exhibited in Foiano Photography in Italy, at Jaipur Photo 2017 in India, and at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China.
It’s an impressive year’s work for a photographer who’s proactive enough to make his own fortune – but also generous enough to give some of the credit to his BJP Breakthrough win. “Breakthrough is an award that points to the long-term potential of award-winning photographers,” says Sapienza.
“Winning this award, given the authority of the BJP and especially the jury, gave me some self-confidence about my project and my ideas.”
BJP’s Breakthrough Awards 2017 are now open for entries www.bjpbreakthrough.com
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