The Nikon Foundation student photography competition has got off to a flying start, attracting an incredible 279 entries from final-year photography students all over the UK for the coveted prize of a three-month paid internship with leading fashion, portrait and advertising photographer John Wright, plus a generous £3000 expenses and a top-of-the-range Nikon pro camera and lens kit worth £4000.

thumb01A very strong shortlist of ten were all put through their paces in a tough face-to-face interview with the judging panel – including John Wright, GQ photographic director James Mullinger, Q Magazine’s photographic director Russ O’Connell, GQ art director Warren Jackson and Nikon imaging support and training manager James Banfield. But there could only be one winner… so we are delighted to announce that 20-year-old Melissa Jenkins from Bridgend College in South Wales will shortly be heading to London with a brand new Nikon kit to start her internship with John.

John says he has been ‘amazed’ at the outstanding quality of the entries. ‘However, it was Melissa’s work that really stood out for me. It wasn’t just the high standard of her images but also her appreciation of photography as a business and her understanding for the need to promote your work via multiple platforms. I think she will fit well into my team and I hope that I can teach her something valuable.’

thumb02Melissa is already proving her promotional acumen: when we spoke to her she had just launched her new photographic exhibition, Together in Uncertainty, at the Blackall Studios in Shoreditch, London. ‘The Nikon Foundation competition is the perfect way to kick-start any photographer who aspires to work in the industry,’ she says. ‘Winning hasn’t really sunk in yet, and I don’t think it will feel real until I’m at the studio working alongside John.

‘My lecturers, family and friends were determined that I had a chance of winning the competition, and my tutors were all extremely supportive in helping me enter, but I was absolutely thrilled and delighted just to be shortlisted. To meet John Wright and his fellow judges was a huge opportunity in itself; to win was unbelievable. The reaction at college has been very positive and my tutors are ecstatic.

‘I start the internship at the end of July and have already visited and been given a tour by John of his new studio in Shoreditch. I’m really looking forward to the challenges, working in a fast-paced environment and obviously learning from and working alongside such an established and influential photographer. It’s such an invaluable experience and I can’t wait to start.’

thumb03Melissa has always been interested in the arts. When she left school at 16, she was originally keen on working in the music industry, but after visiting Bridgend College on an open day and experiencing a taster of its BTEC National Diploma Photography course, she realised photography had to be her choice. By the end of her diploma she was set on a career in fashion photography, and for the last three years has been studying for a BA (Hons) at Bridgend in Photographic Practice. ‘‘What appealed about the course were the diversity of specialist areas presented in the students’ work and how open the lecturers were to all aspects of photography,’ she explains. ‘Working in fashion alongside photographers specialising in subjects including fine art and documentary has helped my work become informed by very different aspects of life and professionalisms. Originally I experimented with self-portraits inspired by the likes of Cindy Sherman. I began to build characters and stories within my photography while photographing models and collaborating with teams. Fashion photography felt like the perfect way to express my style of work.’ After the internship, Melissa intends to freelance. ‘I hope to work with established magazines on editorials and with businesses on commercial campaigns. My ultimate ambition is to be a successful fashion photographer and to continue working in the field that I am so passionate about; I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.’

To help you further your career in photography we have put together hints and tips from the judges which you may find useful.

Click here to read the tips