Meet California

When I saw the opportunity to apply for the BJP’s and Visit California’s Meet California competition, I had to apply.

The description provided on the competition website reads:

Meet California will give four photographers the opportunity to road trip across the Golden State on a 10-day British Journal of Photography commission, in partnership with Visit California. All trip expenses will be covered and, amongst other prizes, each photographer will receive a £2,500 project grant.

While in California, the four competition winners will each produce a new body of work that responds to their experience traversing the vast and diverse destination. Steering clear of generic picture-perfect travel photography, each body of work should delve beneath the surface of California and reveal the daily occurrences and unexpected nuances, as well as the people and places, that give America’s Golden State its distinctive character.

Narrative-led bodies of work, which hone in on individual communities and activities, will be encouraged.

A carefully crafted itinerary will take the winning photographers to some of the most vibrant pockets of California. For a photographer, the diversity of the Golden State presents endless opportunity and inspiration. There are few places in the world that offer the vibrancy of its iconic cities – serving as global centres for art, entertainment and technology – and the beauty and tranquility of its Pacific coastline, sprawling redwood forests, vast deserts and towering mountain ranges.

Although each winning photographer will develop a standalone body of work, the practitioners will travel across California as a group. Working as a photographer can be notoriously solitary but Meet California will be a truly shared experience.

The all-expenses-paid trip will take place between 05 and 16 September 2018.

This is too good a chance not to take a punt on.

But, as it is narrative led, and as I was torn between my environmental work and my dog project at the start of my MA, I decided that for this I would apply with examples from my Humans and Dogs of St Agnes project.

I didn’t come across the details of this until quite close to the deadline (less than 24 hours). I picked it up from an email alert by Peggy Sue Emerson.

I submitted these images:

Along with images, the application required some background info about the applicant. Below is what I wrote:

Based in Cornwall, my photographic practice predominantly looks at the human impact on the natural world through the use of alternative and camera-less photographic processes.

I have worked in a variety of photographic roles from commercial to medical, and set up my participatory photography project, ShutterPod, in Cornwall in 2014.
My desire to develop my personal photographic practice led to my enrolment on the MA in Photography at Falmouth University.
Through this I have evolved my ongoing project, Harena Now: my response to the global sand crisis.
Earlier this year, I was shortlisted for the Eden Project/FoAM Residency: Invisible Worlds (2018). In 2017 I exhibited my Harena Now work-in-progress at Hayle Heritage Centre as part of Falmouth University’s Searching for Meaning show; was the commissioned artist for 6000 FLOWERS/Farm for AONBees, Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s and the University of Exeter’s Environmental Science Institute exhibition for their bee science project; and took part in Garden Leave, a visual artists’ residency at Hestercombe Gardens, Somerset, to help develop an arts centre. I produced a short film in 2016 as part of the national 14-18 NOW WWI commemorative project through a commission to showcase the artists participating in Cornwall Crafts Association’s and the National Trust’s 14-18 NOW exhibition. 
I successfully crowdfunded and curated a one-day alternative photography festival, Phototasia, as part of Newquay Art8 in 2014.
Before I began my MA, I had started a project inspired by my love of dogs, and inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York and Elliot Erwitt’s canine photographs. The images I have submitted are from this: Humans and Dogs of St Agnes.
I have always been intrigued by the bond between humans and dogs, and the history we have shared.
But it was my own dog Milo who inspired me the most. He died last year and it is still heartbreaking to not have him around. He was a rescue dog and the plan for the project had been to use it as a means to raise money for local dog rescue. As my MA now draws to a close I am drawn back to this project; it is very different in style to my environmental work and also enables me to use my journalistic skills to create stories to compliment the images.
Having never thought I could love another dog again, not having Milo’s presence in our home led us to rescue a new dog, Millie. She has needed intense care to help her adjust to life without cruelty, and my love for her has blossomed. I now cannot imagine my life without her, yet I am very aware that, in theory, this will be the case. Despite this, I feel lucky to be able support and love another animal, and have them love and support me. It is this bond, this unexplainable connection that intrigues me and I want to learn more about how others see the dogs that share their lives.
I do not know if this is what they are looking for, but the chance to do something along the lines of this in California would be amazing. There’s something about people who love dogs that unites – I guess it’s a bit like when smokers find a fellow puffer they can huddle up with outside a pub; it’s something in common even when everything else may be different.
The four judges all have very differing and distinguished careers, so even being seen by the panel and considered will be something.
Meet California. Available at: [accessed July 7, 2018]