Questioning Jocelyn Allen

Amalgamated Anomalies © Jocelyn allen 13th July 2015

Q1. How would you describe your artwork and process?

My artwork is a very therapeutic thing for me, though sometimes the therapy is with making the work, sometimes it is showing it to people and a lot of the time it’s both.

I started making self-portrait projects in the last year of my BA (Photographic Art, University of Wales, Newport, 2007-2010), though I had been taking them since getting into photography in high school. I currently have 14 self-portraiture projects. The main themes that run between most of them are representation, hiding and revealing, self-esteem, anxiety and identity. A lot of them are to do with the body too.

I made my first video in 2010, though didn’t make one again until my MA (Photography, London College of College, 2013-2014) when I started a project called Your Dedication Worries Me A Little. Currently there are over 1200 videos of me dancing on YouTube to songs that I like. The project is ongoing and it is about accepting myself and building my confidence.

Last year I started improv comedy, which I feel has changed me quite a lot. It’s something I have wanted to try for a long time, but never had the confidence to do. I like to think there is humour in a lot of my projects, even when some of them are about serious things. Because of improv though I think my practice is starting to change too.

My latest project, Bare Images, is made up of pictures of myself that I made with a page scanner. The title comes from a spam email where it talks about bare images, instead of nude images so that it wouldn’t get put into the spam box. I’ve been collecting spam emails on and off since 2010 as I planned to do a project a long time ago with them, but never did, so I went through them to pick out lines that I thought could work as titles and together tell a one-sided story about someone who is sending pictures of themselves to someone’s email. It’s quite different to what I have made before, but mainly because of the titles, which I doubt I would not have put if I hadn’t been doing improv.

With the process –  My first few projects were very rigid and I knew how many pictures I was going to get from the beginning, but since then I generally just shoot a lot and then edit. With my YouTube videos it’s one take only, if I fall over or mess up the lyrics, it stays.

A lot of the projects have formed from a need to take pictures and after a couple of shoots an idea develops or a theme emerges.

Todays Look – Don’t Take Me Out Of My Melons © Jocelyn Allen-21st April 2017


Q2. What message are you trying to convey with your type of portraiture? 

Number one I make the work for me. I went to counselling for a bit during college and my BA, mainly as I had a problem with the meaning of life and being here, but also due to depression and a lack of love for myself due to years of people verbally wearing me down. I tried to go to counselling a few other times later on, but I either attend due to my schedule (like on my MA) or due to long waiting lists (3 months one time, when I started Neblina, and 8 months recently, when I started Don’t Take Me Out Of My Melons). So my work has helped give me a purpose in life, but also to self-help to work on my self-esteem and self-confidence.

My works – Your Mind & Body Is All That You’ve Got  (2 photo projects, 1 video)- started after reading articles about older women who had finally learned to love themselves and I realised that I didn’t want to spend most of my life stuck in a self-hate cycle. So if my work helps someone to look at themselves more positively or want to make a positive change in their life then that is great!

Some of my work is deliberately unflattering as I think now with social media there is so much pressure to look ‘perfect’, but also one of my problems is a fear of being judged, which luckily has shrunk a bit due to my images, my YouTube work definitely and now with improv comedy.


I Feel Very Meh © Jocelyn Allen 23rd December 2015


Q3. Where do you create your work and projects?

 The majority of my work is made where I live. Since moving to London in late 2010, most of my work was made in my bedroom (/s as I have moved a few times), until the last year where I have been working out of my living room. I ‘celebrated’ this move by making Sofa Studies.

However in Neblina, which I made in 2015 and 2016, I forced myself to photograph myself outside. The project prior Amalgamated Anomalies, was me telling myself that I could continue to photograph myself inside if I could make pictures that I hadn’t taken before. No one was telling me that I had to photograph myself outside, except me, but Neblina was very therapeutic for me. I wrote a diary before, during and after the shoots which I then took quotes from for titles of the works. The second phase was drawing digitally on the images as I haven often doodled to relax, so it felt like a natural step for my anxiety.


I took a decision to surf the net to do it for a new acquaintance – Bare Images © Jocelyn Allen


Q4. Tell us about the piece you had on show at Breakthrough…

I was walking around at home with a hot water bottle stuffed in my trousers due to period pain when I thought it would make a funny photo to put on Instagram. So I took some pictures, then started to write a caption. I wanted to make fun of myself, whilst also being honest, so I did it in the style of one of those ‘what am I wearing’ kind of blog posts. Then my friend mentioned that I didn’t talk about my underwear, though I had talked about my watch and bracelet that were hidden, so I went into more depth and talked about what sanitary products I was using as well. So 21st April 2017 (Today’s Look) ended up being quite confessional. Initially I intended it to be a one-off piece, but then it evolved into a diary project called Don’t Take Me Out Of My Melons. It’s an ongoing series, where most of the images aren’t that great but are there more as an illustration for the text, which is helping me to feel more comfortable with my own words and thoughts.

I only entered the picture into the competition as it had had a good response on Instagram, which surprised me, but I was more surprised when I won the Single Graduate Image prize. It was great to get such a positive feedback, especially by women telling me that they could relate.


Sofa Studies II- © Jocelyn Allen 17th January 2017


Something a bit different that might interest you though…

I’m currently working on a commission for Creative Black Country, Multistory and Delhi Photo Festival where I am photographing Punjabi women and girls in the Black Country in the UK and in The Punjab in India. As I mainly take self-portraits I was surprised to get an email out of the blue inviting me to an interview last year. I was a bit worried about meeting people for the project and I didn’t want anyone to have to ‘hold my hand’, but luckily everyone I have approached seems to be interested and I’ve had some people get in touch with me. I’m really enjoying talking to and photographing the women, and I’m excited to see how it will look at the end!


Your Dedication Worries Me A Little © Jocelyn Allen



Jocelyn will be speaking about her more ‘experimental’ works – Bare Images, Neblina and Máscaraat at the upcoming Making It Real exhibition and events, which is organised by London Alternative Photography Collective.  

Just follow the link for more info: 

AND For more of Joceyln’s work check out her website or follow her on Insatgram!