Jocelyn Allen, who recently won BJP’s graduate single image award, claims photography helps her deal with personal issues. Using the camera, she creates work that better her self-esteem and confidence after finding counselling unhelpful. Jocelyn also dances on YouTube, under a pseudonym, to help build confidence, as well as creating other videos that reflect on poignant memories from her life.
Jocelyn spoke to Copytrack about her latest work, her experiences with image piracy online. She went on to give tips to any photographers who are currently working their way up the ladder.
How did you get into photography?
I got a 1mp digital camera for my 15th birthday. I mainly took pictures of my younger sister and at music gigs. Then I was struggling to choose a third subject to study after high school (I wanted to do history and English language) and didn’t want to choose a random subject that I would hate so I decided to go to a different college and study photography full time instead.
Your work is incredibly personal, in a lot of your art you reveal personal memories that many would struggle to talk about openly. Why do you focus on yourself and are you ever concerned that you might be putting yourself too out there?
There are times when I went away from self-portraiture as it didn’t want to appear to be a ‘one trick pony’, but my work has been incredibly therapeutic and helped me to accept myself. Each project generally has pushed me out of my comfort zone in some way as that’s how I grow as a person. At times, I worried about putting myself out there too much. The things that I do talk about I hope they help other people to overcome their own issues and past.
There is currently over 40 hours footage of you dancing online, an exercise to build your self-confidence. How did you come up with this idea, and how are you finding the process?
I dance quite a lot at home so I was sat dancing at my computer one day and thought about it. One problem I have because of how people responded to me as a teenager is a fear of being judged. The videos have definitely helped with that. I’m also doing improv comedy now, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without the videos and my self-portraiture.
Don´t Take Me Out My Melons is a thought-provoking ongoing project of yours. What do you want to achieve with it? I noticed that you revealed a chilling story about the purple top incident.
Number 1 is it’s a therapeutic project for me. The waiting list for counselling was 8 months so I needed something to put negative energy into and to keep my mind busy with. With improv comedy I also realised how scared I was of my own words in real life, being wrong or people disagreeing with me. I kind of knew this through my love-hate relationship with social media, but improv comedy really reiterated it. A lot of the pictures are not great, they’re dull and boring, but the point of the project isn’t to make a super visually interesting series. It’s a way of accepting myself in a different way.
What are your thoughts to sharing your work online and on social media? Do you ever worry that your images might be stolen online, and are you doing anything to protect yourself against it?
I think it’s an important part of a photographer or artist’s practice these days. I make a lot of work and most of it would be largely unseen without so for me I think it’s good to share it. I don’t like to share it at a big size though.
I know that a lot of friends have had images stolen so it is something that I think about, though theirs are often of famous people. I don’t like posting my images too big and I put information in my files, though I know this can be deleted.
What advice would you give to any up-and-coming photographers, and which photographers inspire you?
The world is every increasingly full of people who call themselves photographers. In order to separate yourself from the rest you need to have a lot of passion and be ready to work hard. Taking photographs is a small part of the job, there is a lot of admin and boring stuff to be done too.
I do admin work a few days a week so that I know I can pay rent and eat etc. I live in London so rent is high and I can’t make personal work if I feel insecure about money. Do what is right for you! If I need inspiration I generally just go on Instagram and see how well all my friends are doing, which gives me a push to get on and make work!
And finally, you recently won the award for Graduate Single Image, BJP Breakthrough. What was your reaction, and what´s next for Jocelyn Allen?
Shock! I’m used to receiving a lot of rejection emails. Obviously I was very happy though. I’m currently working on a non-self-portraiture commission for Creative Black Country, Multistory and Delhi Photo Festival about Punjabi women and girls in the Black Country (UK) and The Punjab (India). I’ve wanted to make a series about other women for a while so I am really enjoying meeting new people and working with them. I’m also continuing with my personal practice – new self-portraits and new videos.
Also check out Copytrack’s interview with street photographer Tomaso Baldessarini