Irish graduate wins British Journal of Photography’s Breakthrough Award

August 26, 2016

BA (Hons) Documentary Photography Graduate Daragh Soden has won the Undergraduate Single Image award, with a shot taken from his final year photography project, Young Dubliners, in the British Journal of Photography’s (BJP) Breakthrough 2016.

Daragh graduated in 2016 and his project, Young Dubliners has already grabbed the attention of photography publication, Darwin magazine, who featured a selection of the images.

Daragh’s Young Dubliners collection is a series of images from his hometown, through which he tries to convey something he experienced growing up, and also “something about the times [the subjects] are growing up in now – a time of recession and austerity”.

Despite Soden’s knowledge of the city Young Dubliners features shots of people he doesn’t know, and his winning image was caught off-the-cuff on the bus.

“I had just finished a long day shooting Young Dubliners and was catching the bus home. When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked down the aisle and spotted this young couple chilling at the back. I sat a few seats ahead of them for a while, my nerves bubbling about in my belly. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to turn around to ask for a photograph. They were cool about it and just stared out the window as if I wasn’t there while I wobbled about trying to focus as the bus swung round corners. I didn’t see the photograph until a few months later, when I developed the film at university.

Every portrait is posed, in some way or another, and this one is no different. With this work I tried to empower the young people I photographed. The series of pictures presents young Dubliners presenting themselves, in their own environments.

I didn’t get 'inspired’ to make my Young Dubliners work, or any of my other work. Ideas form and develop over time and with lots of research. Then a lot of time is spent 'in the field’, making photographs. And then even more time and thought is put into editing the series and contextualising it (with a short story in the case of Young Dubliners).

The BA (Hons) Documentary Photography course is one of the best courses to study photography in the world. The lecturers are not only wise mentors but are also leading practitioners.”

Bruno Bayley, European managing editor of Vice UK, said of the image: “It’s a very tender picture. There’s a lovely dynamic between the two people in the picture, and there’s a timelessness to it; it’s difficult to place where and when the picture was taken. Young people get a lot of flak these days, but the image felt warm and celebratory and uplifting.”

In addition, fellow USW Documentary Photography graduate Simone Sapienza was awarded the Undergraduate Series award. Simone is also one of the organisers of a prestigious photography festival in Italy, which features work by students, staff and graduates of USW.

Daragh and Simone’s work, along with the other winners in the awards, will printed by London pro-lab theprintspace and exhibited at The Old Truman Brewery in east London as part of the Free Range graduate shows. The winners will also see their work published in BJP’s acclaimed monthly magazine and across its online social channels, reaching over a million creatives worldwide. The images will be showcased globally on WeTransfer, which has over 80 million visitors a month.