Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
Healthcare doesn’t just take place in hospitals, and in the time of a global pandemic, it is especially relevant to consider how it touches all aspects of our lives.
The Wellcome Photography Prize aims to do just that by celebrating visual stories that challenge mental health stigmas, highlight social inequalities in medicine, and show how individuals care for one another and themselves.
The 2020 prize, run by the Wellcome Trust health research charity, has revealed its shortlist from 25 professional and amateur photographers from 13 different countries, chosen from an open-call for submissions.
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Across a range of documentary and more conceptual images, topics explored by the shortlisted photographers include maternity care in rural areas, the impact of climate change on communities, and depression and anxiety.
Arseniy Neskhodimov’s conceptual self-portrait series “Prozac” visualizes how he lives daily with depression. Credit: Arseniy Neskhodimov / Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
With two categories dedicated to mental health, this year’s special focus showcases the importance of representing interior struggles and explores how we can better care for our minds. Winners of this year’s prize will be announced on August 19, with cash prizes including an overall award for 15,000 (around $20,000).
Below is a selection of shortlisted images that show the prize’s varied and powerful representations of healthcare.
Gianluca Urdiroz Agati/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
Gianluca Urdiroz Agati took this portrait of Adrian holding his son Luca, who he has picked up from school. Adrian, who is originally from Romania, is blind and now living in Bournemouth, UK. Agati notes that touch is central to their relationship; for instance, when he is not in school Luca helps his father navigate the world.
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The portrait is part of a larger body of work by the UK-based, Italian-Spanish photographer, which focuses on father-son relationships and how they reflect contemporary ideas of masculinity. With this image Agati emphasizes that tenderness is a trait that is often overlooked in the portrayal of male relationships.
“While being embraced by his father Adrian, I find that Luca’s confidence comes through and makes this image striking,” Agati said over email. “The image evokes a contrast between strength and tenderness, of trust and protectiveness that reflects the very specific bond they have.”
Going Under Lagos, Nigeria, 2019 A mother carries her children to school through a flooded street. Credit: Nyancho NwaNri/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
Lagos-based photographer Nyancho NwaNri took this image in 2019 of a mother carrying her child to school in her home city, with floodwaters nearly knee-high. In neighborhoods along the Lagos Lagoon, annual flooding has been exacerbated by rising sea levels due to climate change.
“Apart from the physical damage and the risk of water-borne diseases, there comes a threat to mental health,” NwaNri writes in Wellcome Prize’s online gallery image caption. “Living through a natural disaster — or one fuelled by human activity — is traumatic. Floods, droughts and extreme weather can destroy your assumptions about the safety of your home. Climate change is a threat to mental health just as it is to physical health, and governments’ responses to it must take that into account.”
Marijn Fidder/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
Since 2017, Dutch photographer Marijn Fidder has photographed the project “Naughty Cells,” showing the honest day-to-day lives of children being treated for cancer. By creating photo albums for their families, she hopes to help them through the emotional journey.
This image from 2018 of Sanne, 11 years old, who has a brain tumor, shows the young girl in her bedroom, surrounded by greeting cards pinned to her walls that have been given to her by her loved ones. “She was showing me the gifts that she got and suddenly she stretched out on her bed and smiled,” Fidder recalled over email.
“Sanne takes joy in the knowledge that she’s not alone,” the photo caption reads. “Cancer is always frightening, and it can be particularly confusing for children. A child may not understand what is happening to them, or why, or what might happen next.”
Fidder recalled over email the first time she met Sanne, at the hospital during the child’s first chemo treatment. “I was photographing a boy for my series. It was one of his last days of treatment, while it was the beginning of Sanne’s story (with) cancer.”
Sameer Satchu/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
Tanzania-based photographer Sameer Satchu (who goes by Sam Vox), documented Ugandan midwife Agness in 2019 as she leaned in close to a patient to hear her fetus’s heartbeat using a 19th-century Pinard horn. In rural Uganda, Vox notes, healthcare can be difficult to access and clinics often lack resources.
“The healthcare workers are tireless and dedicated to their communities,” Vox’s caption reads. “They could do more with better equipment, but if that isn’t available, they will still find ways to improve what they can do and give the best possible care to their patients.”
Vox believes his image of Agness challenges what he sees as a prevalent, negative view of Africa. “There’s so much narrative that portrays Africa as this ‘helpless continent,’ he wrote over email. “(This photograph) resonates with me because this is how I see my people, as passionate and very hardworking.”
Maite Carams/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
Barcelona-based photographer Maite Carams was able to us her camera to help her friend Valrie when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. At Valrie’s request, Carams took photos of her throughout chemotherapy to show her experience fighting the disease. “It meant to me a lot because (she regarded the series) as a form of therapy, and that makes feel very proud,” Carams said over email.
Carams took this portrait of her friend post surgery. The view is of Valrie’s back, and shows her chest wrapped in gauze, her wig by her side and her vibrant blue headscarf draped down her back.
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“When you go through this you have to find ways to maintain your courage, your mood, your dignity, and even your identity,” Carams wrote in her caption. “In this grueling process, friendship is invaluable.”
Ed Kashi/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
In 2014, New York-based photojournalist Ed Kashi photographed Daisy, 38, and her mother Sonia, 58, just after they learned that Daisy is genetically predisposed to early onset Alzheimer’s, a disease that Sonia had been struggling with for ten years. Daisy is Sonia’s full-time caretaker. “I’ve looked into homes but I don’t have the heart to do it,” Daisy said in the image caption. “She’s my world. Why would I turn my back on her now when she needs me the most?”
“Being allowed to witness this intimate moment between a mom and daughter was both emotional and humbling,” Kashi said over email. “Daisy is a true hero in allowing (me) to record the moment she found out she has the gene, like her mom, that almost assures her of early onset of Alzheimer’s. Her bravery in participating in this story is fueled by her desire to help others.”
Tom Merilion/Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
London-based photographer and filmmaker Tom Merilion took this portrait of Nina with her eyes closed as she takes a rest during her daily swim routine in Scotland’s River Spey — which she keeps up as a balm for her anxiety and depression. A 2018 case study found that cold water swimming could have a positive effect on major depressive disorders.
“It makes all my senses feel alive no matter how dead inside I feel going in,” Nina is quoted in the image caption. “I notice natural life, the seasons and the weather, the way the water is moving around me, and importantly it makes me feel like I am actually capable and can achieve amazing things.”