If You Don’t Try, You Don’t Get

Artist Blog by Jocelyn Allen

Throughout my BA in Photographic Art I had little confidence but was driven by the motto ‘If you don’t try, you don’t get’. I was very concerned about whether I would take another picture again after the course, even though I was always doing extra shoots outside of the project work. Would I be able to make work without deadlines? I had been in education since the age of 4 and I was now 21. Of course it’s scary…

I’d started to enter my work for competitions in the last year of university. Since leaving I have seen many people enter competitions and get their work ‘out there’ so much earlier than me, which I highly respect. Competitions are a controversial subject, and you should definitely think carefully about what you enter, but I’m not here to write a post about that though…

I’d entered my work into a competition for Guernsey Photography Festival. The theme was identity and I hadn’t really thought about it but my work definitely fitted the brief. I had gotten distracted around that time by final year show and the application was postal only, so I ended up sending it the day before the deadline (after doubting whether to) with the most expensive postage and hoping it would be received in time.

Luckily for me it was. Part of the prize was to make a new series for the next year’s festival on the theme of identity. Perfect.

I was moving back home to figure out my life plan and started to think about identity in terms of nature versus nurture. Your genetics vs. your surroundings. I’ve always been interested in family as you don’t choose who your parents are and it’s a series of good timings (for you) that you are you. Your parents/guardians can bring you up one way, but then you go to school and you’re exposed to a lot of different ways to bring kids up. I was interested in looking at myself and my family members that I saw the most (my Grandparents, my parents and two sisters).

At the time I didn’t feel particularly close to them and I was quite surprised that they all agreed to be in it. I thought that I didn’t look like any of my family so I wanted to take their portraits somewhere where they would usually sit in their house (my Dad always lies on the sofa and my Mum has her chair in the lounge). Then I would wear their clothes and try to sit exactly like them. My Mum kept repositioning me. My older sister was living far away at the time and luckily was coming home to visit that summer. A lot of test shots were trying out the idea with my younger sister and I thought it would be more interesting to take pictures of both my sisters and me being each other as we all come from the same two people yet we are all very different.

I exhibited the work, One Is Not Like The Other in Guernsey in 2011 along with my previous project, Reality of Youth Going Backwards in Vain.

I’m sure without the prize I would have continued to make work, but for me the opportunity came at a time for me when I was really questioning myself and the future, and it gave me some much needed confidence. I wasn’t planning to make another project that included me but I guess once I got the idea I knew that I really wanted to do it…

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