Knitting photo wins Wellcome Photography Prize

image sourceJameisha Prescod

A self-portrait by Jameisha Prescod is one of the winners of this year’s Wellcome Photography Prize.

The photograph, entitled Untangling, was taken in her London home during the forced isolation of lockdown.

“It’s where I work a full-time job, eat, sleep, catch up with friends and, most importantly, cry,” says Prescod, of her home.

As an escape, Prescod turned to knitting during the pandemic, which she says helps to soothe her mind. It may not be a cure, but it does at least “put everything else on pause” for a while, explains Prescod.

“It’s really hard to talk about mental health, and I guess it’s especially hard to turn a camera on yourself – to expose some of the deepest and darkest [feelings].

“I’m glad that, even taking it, I could touch on something that a lot of us have been going through in this pandemic,” she adds

Prescod is a London-based filmmaker and journalist whose work focuses on those with a chronic illness.

The Wellcome Photography Prize focuses on the health challenges of our time and how health affects society.

image sourceYoppy Pieter
image captionMira (not her real name) is a sex worker in Jakarta. Covid restrictions mean that she can no longer work in the street, so she is working from home using the internet: “I have no option, and need to work to pay rent and living expenses,” she says.

The other top award, for a series of photographs, went to Yoppy Pieter. His work, Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice, shows the many obstacles which trans women face in Indonesia.

Based in the capital Jakarta, Pieter co-founded Arkademy, an educational platform which promotes the use of photography as a creative medium to critique the relationships between self and society.

image sourceYoppy Pieter
image captionLilis (centre) having an HIV test in Serpong, South Tangerang. She is accompanied by Aurel (left) from Pelita Tangsel, an organisation that helps trans women access health services when they don’t have the required official documentation.
image sourceYoppy Pieter
image captionA community of trans women live in Depok, West Java, where rents are affordable. During the pandemic they have lost a lot of what little income they had, meaning they are finding it even harder to pay living costs.
image sourceYoppy Pieter
image captionAs leader of the Indonesian Transgender Communication Forum, Mami Yuli (right), is dedicated to fighting for trans women’s rights. During the pandemic she has been distributing financial support to her community.

The winners were selected from 90 shortlisted images from 15 countries.

“Both the winning entries moved the judges and initiated debate – we couldn’t help but discuss them at length,” said Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome and Wellcome Photography Prize Chair.

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

A further four category finalists were also announced:

The Big Fish, by Morteza Niknahad, Iran

image sourceMorteza Niknahad
image captionNiknahad’s pictures, inspired by a local Iranian myth, won the Managing Mental Health category. Niknahad reimagined his mother’s longstanding depression as a fish-like monster inside her – a constant enemy to struggle against.
image sourceMorteza Niknahad
image caption“In a period of 15 years, my mom lost three important members of her family: her brother’s son, Ali, her brother, Hossein, and her daughter-in-law, Masoumeh.”
image sourceMorteza Niknahad
image caption“When I was a teenager I used to take everyone’s picture. After printing the photos, I realised they all had something in common: my mom was always looking away from the lens,” explains the photographer. “At that time I thought it was by accident, but when I grew up I realised there was a mystery I didn’t know about.”

The Time of Coronavirus, by Aly Song, China

image sourceAly Song
image captionTaken in Wuhan, China, near to where the pandemic first came to international attention, Song shows volunteers from the Blue Sky Rescue Team disinfecting the Qintai Grand Theatre. The picture won the Fighting Infections single image category.

Climate Cost, by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury, Bangladesh

image sourceZakir Hossain Chowdhury
image captionThe image depicts a man, Haibur, salvaging belongings from the wreckage of his house, three months after Cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh. Like many others, he remains homeless, taking shelter wherever he can. He has nowhere to cook, nowhere to grow crops, and medical treatment is hard to come by. The picture won the Health in a Heating World single image category.

An Elegy for the Death of Hamun, by Hashem Shakeri, Iran

image sourceHashem Shakeri
image captionThis series focuses on the area around the Hamun Lake in Iran. Once fertile, the region is now turning into a desert, bringing drought, hunger, unemployment and mass emigration. Its deterioration showcases the rapid effects of climate change. The pictures won the Health in a Heating World series category.
image sourceHashem Shakeri
image captionYasmin Raeesi, 17, uses a dead tree for drying clothes. She and her family live in an area heavily impacted by the drought. Limited drinking water leads to health problems such as dehydration, malnutrition and disease.
image sourceHashem Shakeri
image captionAbdullah, who is fasting, is resting under a fruit tree which has dried out and become infested by beetles. There are still plenty of green trees around, but he believes that farming will soon become unviable in the area.