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.
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
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
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'.
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.
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
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.
Single image finalist: Fighting Infections
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
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 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.
About the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021The winners were selected by Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, and a panel of eight judges:
- Dr Dixon Chibanda, Associate Professor at the University of Zimbabwe Clinical Research Centre, and Director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative
- Johannah Churchill RGN, Photographer and Primary Care Nurse
- Joycelyn Longdon, MRes and PhD at the University of Cambridge and Founder of ClimateInColour
- Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
- Azu Nwagbogu, Founder and Director of African Artists' Foundation and LagosPhoto Festival
- Dr Charles Ogilvie, Strategy Director of COP26 and multimedia artist
- Brett Rogers OBE, Director of The Photographers' Gallery
- Dr Kateřina Šrahůlková, Psychologist and Mental Health Specialist with Médecins sans Frontières
Amy is the Editorial Assistant at BBC Science Focus. Her BA degree specialised in science publishing and she has been working as a journalist since graduating in 2018. In 2020, Amy was named Editorial Assistant of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors. She looks after all things books, culture and media. Her interests range from natural history and wildlife, to women in STEM and accessibility tech.