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Winner of prestigious annual Sproxton Award for Photography announced

Photograph of two people facing away from each other.
  • Written byChloe Murphy
  • Published date 16 January 2024
Photograph of two people facing away from each other.
Image credit: 'Somebody That They Used to Know' from 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' - Jiapeng Liu, MA Photography.

At London College of Communication (LCC), we’re passionate about cultivating an inspiring, dynamic environment where emerging creatives can learn and grow. By connecting with cutting-edge perspectives and industry-standard facilities, our students have the space and resources they need to build their knowledge and refine their practice as they prepare for the next stage of their professional journeys.

One of the ways in which we empower students is by highlighting their work in ways that elevate their profile and celebrate powerful innovation, helping them to develop industry networks while cultivating further opportunities. Alongside College-wide initiatives such as degree shows, exhibitions and Graduate Futures activities, many initiatives are launched locally within courses, programmes and departments, such as residencies, competitions and awards.

The Sproxton Award recently celebrated its 20th anniversary at LCC, having been founded through the philanthropic support of David Sproxton in memory of his brother, Andrew Sproxton.

Andrew played an important role in the establishment of photography as an independent art form within Great Britain and, along with Professor Val Williams, co-founded Impressions Gallery - one of the first specialist photography galleries in Europe.

Passionate about supporting and promoting the work of up-and-coming photographers, both Andrew and Val were dedicated to exhibiting emerging work and providing the tools needed to produce it. As a result, Impressions became one of the first galleries to show the work of celebrated photographers such as Daniel Meadows, Nick Hedges and Martin Parr, and continues to retain its reputation as one of the UK’s leading independent venues for the contemporary photographic.

Today, Professor Williams - an established historian, curator and author - remains a key figure in developing LCC's reputation of excellence in photography practice and research, having joined the College in 2003.

Following his death in 1977, Andrew’s legacy continues to live on: both through the values and vision of the gallery he co-founded, and through the Sproxton Award, which commemorates his care and dedication to the future of the photographic image.

Each year, a panel of professionals honours a graduating MA Photography student who is judged to have ‘pushed the boundaries of the medium to develop their own unique vision’, providing them with a prize of £1200 to help them kickstart their career.

In the past, winners have represented a spectrum of contemporary fine art photography, with celebrated projects ranging from documentary and staged photography to portraiture and landscape.

Photograph of two people smoking cigarettes.
Image credit: 'Do I Dare and Do I Dare' from 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' - Jiapeng Liu, MA Photography.

"Ensuring that every element has a purpose"

In November 2023, Jiapeng Liu was announced as the latest Sproxton Award-winner in recognition of his work, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Employing deductive documentary forms to explore a fictional love story, Jiapeng's work features 2 protagonists who exhibit various disharmonious and unnatural behaviours within an otherwise harmonious environment - expressing a sharp tension as they attempt to maintain a loving relationship despite the discordant memories made manifest by their past.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is my first photo album based on the life stories of real people. In this project, my primary focus was on portraying the 'strangeness' of the two characters through visual language," explained Jiapeng.

"My visual ethos involves skilfully employing a concise and evocative visual language to express my personal aesthetic pursuits. I find great inspiration in surrealism, drawing from its dreamlike qualities to infuse my work with a sense of wonder. Similarly, I embrace the elegance of minimalism to create a harmonious visual experience, ensuring that every element has a purpose. These artistic elements, among others, intertwine in my creative process, allowing me to craft intricate narratives that captivate the imagination and evoke powerful emotions.

"In this project, for the first time, I employed a pseudo-documentary photography style. This more realistic approach brings the lives of the protagonists closer to the viewer, providing a more effective means of storytelling."

We caught up with Jiapeng to discuss the inspiration behind the award-winning work, the influence of broader cultural practice, and the importance of continuously evolving your creative identity.

Three images of two people taking a selfie using a small camera.
Image credit: 'A Selfie' from 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' - Jiapeng Liu, MA Photography.

Tell us about your creative practice.

I've always been fascinated by documentary photography, and since high school, I've been particularly engaged in street photography. During my later undergraduate studies, I systematically began to delve deeper into the craft and started using images to document the lives of diverse communities.

As a practitioner, I utilise various tools such as digital and film cameras, and I've even experimented with capturing moments through short video clips.

What attracted you to the field of photography?

I've been involved in photography for about 8 years now, and I believe the greatest charm of photography lies in the unique and precious stories behind each photo.

As a photographer, I use my lens to capture the world and express emotions, and aim to evoke a sense of emotional resonance and depth in the stories for the viewers within my frames.

Why did you decide to apply to your course at LCC?

Studying photography at University of the Arts London (UAL) is a dream come true for me. The Photography course at LCC is renowned, standing out as one of the best in the entire UK arts university landscape.

Photograph of two people, one of whom is holding a camera to their face.
Image credit: 'The Discordant' from 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' - Jiapeng Liu, MA Photography.

Tell us about your winning work, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

I adapted The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock into a ‘pseudo-documentary’, static image documentary based on the real-life breakup of a couple I witnessed at a party - an incident that sparked my reflections on the vulnerability of intimate relationships.

Throughout the academic year, and across a range of different projects, I developed my ideas progressively. I was influenced by artists like Nan Goldin and the British poet T.S. Eliot, crafting a complete narrative from still life and fragmented body parts.

What does it mean to you to be recognised with the Sproxton Award?

Receiving this award is tremendous encouragement and recognition from both the College and the judges.

It has not only boosted my confidence but also inspired ideas for future artistic endeavours.

What's next for your career?

I plan to keep working in London, seeking more career opportunities, and dedicating myself to my creative projects and aspirations.

I think winning the Sproxton Award will be helpful way to strengthen the foundation for my future career.

Also, I hope I can find a position that allows me to establish a foothold in the UK as soon as possible.

Photograph of a small doodle depicting two people.
Image credit: 'Themselves, Drawn by Themselves' from 'The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock' - Jiapeng Liu, MA Photography.

What have you most enjoyed about your time as a student at LCC?

I’ve found the photography facilities to be comprehensive, including darkroom facilities for developing and printing, film enlarging and studio spaces. These resources have greatly facilitated my artistic creations.

Moreover, the substantial support from my tutors has been invaluable. Whenever I faced uncertainties on how to progress with my projects, they always consistently offered me helpful advice.

What top tips would you give to other students who are interested in pursuing photography?

My advice would be that maintaining curiosity, bravely exploring different styles and themes, and sharing experiences with peers can be incredibly inspiring.

Persistence and the continuous exploration of your unique visual language are key in the learning process, while integrating your distinctive perspective and stories into your work will undoubtedly contribute to your artistic growth.

London College of Communication would like to thank David Sproxton for his continued and generous support of the Sproxton Award for Photography.

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