Mental health, climate change and COVID-19: 18 mesmerising winners from the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021 © Aly Song/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Mental health, climate change and COVID-19: 18 mesmerising winners from the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

The winning images were chosen by Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome and SAGE member, along with a panel of eight judges.

The winners and finalists of the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021 have been announced, celebrating remarkable visual stories that capture worldwide issues of mental health, global heating and infectious disease.

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Jameisha Prescod’s image Untangling and Yoppy Pieter’s series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice were chosen out of 90 shortlisted images by the judges to be named as this year’s winners.

“Both the winning entries moved the judges and initiated debate, we couldn’t help but discuss them at length,” said Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome. Farrar is an expert in infectious diseases, and has been an active SAGE member throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 and mental health are components in both [winning images], but what captivated us all was the powerful human stories at the very centre – viewed through a lens of compassion.”

The two winners receive £10,000, plus £1,000 for their category win. Also announced were four other category finalists – Morteza Niknahad, Aly Song, Zakir Hossain Chowdhury and Hashem Shakeri – who each win £1,000.

Single image prize goes to Jameisha Prescod’s Untangling

Untangling is a self-portrait depicting how the forced isolation of lockdown exacerbated her depression and confined Jameisha Prescod to her room © Jameisha Prescod/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Jameisha Prescod/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Prescod’s winning photograph, Untangling, is a self-portrait. She says that in lockdown, the forced isolation within her room exacerbated her depression.

“It’s where I work a full-time job, eat, sleep, catch up with friends and most importantly cry,” she said.

As the weeks drew on, she began to feel that she was “drowning in the clutter” around her, so, for escape, she turned to knitting. The craft helps to soothe her mind, though it isn’t a cure. It does, she said, put “everything else on pause” for a while.

Yoppy Pieter wins with his series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice

The photo series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice shows the many obstacles which trans women face in Indonesia © Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

A visual storyteller and educator based in Indonesia, Pieter is one of the founders of Arkademy, a platform that calls photography ‘a creative medium to critique the relationships between self and society’.

19036-FIS-Transwoman-Between-Color-Voice-5
© Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Pieter’s winning series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice shows the difficulties which trans women face in Indonesia.

These obstacles have been made worse by COVID-19, said Pieter, from difficulty gaining employment to accessing healthcare and other government services.

The photo series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice shows the many obstacles which trans women face in Indonesia © Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The photo series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice shows the many obstacles which trans women face in Indonesia © Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The photo series Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice shows the many obstacles which trans women face in Indonesia © Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Yoppy Pieter /Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Finalists within the categories

The two winners and four finalists were announced in a YouTube Live event on 28 July 2021, hosted by science, natural history and environmental broadcaster Liz Bonnin.

Series finalist: Managing Mental Health

The image shows long-standing depression reimagined as a fish-like monster that is ever present © Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Morteza Niknahad’s series The Big Fish was inspired by a local Iranian myth, in which long-standing depression has been reimagined as a fish-like monster that is ever present.

The image shows long-standing depression reimagined as a fish-like monster that is ever present © Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The image shows long-standing depression reimagined as a fish-like monster that is ever present © Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The image shows long-standing depression reimagined as a fish-like monster that is ever present © Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The image shows long-standing depression reimagined as a fish-like monster that is ever present © Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Morteza Niknahad/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Single image finalist: Fighting Infections

The Time of Coronavirus by Aly Song. Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue Team, the largest humanitarian NGO in China, are pictured disinfecting the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan, near to where the COVID-19 pandemic began © Aly Song/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Aly Song/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

The single image The Time of Coronavirus by Aly Song was chosen as a finalist. Volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue Team, the largest humanitarian NGO in China, are pictured disinfecting the Qintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan, near to where the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Single image finalist: Health in a Heating World

A man named Haibur is salvaging belongings from the wreckage of his house, three months after Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh © Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Climate Cost by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury is a single image finalist. In the photograph a man named Haibur is salvaging belongings from the wreckage of his house, three months after Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh.

Series finalist: Health in a Heating World

The Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, once fertile, is now turning into a desert © Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
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The series finalist for the Health in a Heating World category was Hashem Shakeri for An Elegy for the Death of Hamun. The Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, once fertile, is now turning into a desert. Climate change is bringing drought, hunger, unemployment and mass emigration to the area.

The Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, once fertile, is now turning into a desert © Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, once fertile, is now turning into a desert © Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, once fertile, is now turning into a desert © Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
The Sistan and Baluchestan province in Iran, once fertile, is now turning into a desert © Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021
© Hashem Shakeri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

About the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

The winners were selected by Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, and a panel of eight judges:

Wellcome Photography Prize is delivered by Wellcome, an independent charitable foundation supporting science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. It supports discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and it is taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.