This year’s themes of mental health, global heating, and infectious disease have been elucidated by images that tell powerful, provocative visual stories about the health challenges of our time.

On Wednesday 28th, the winners of the Wellcome Photography Prize 2021 were announced in a YouTube Live event.

Untangled – pausing and soothing the mind

In the category of Managing Mental Health, the winner of the single image prize, London-based filmmaker and journalist Jameisha Prescod, explored the social and cultural intersections of chronic illness. Her winning photograph titled, Untangled is a self-portrait depicting how the isolation of lockdown exacerbated her depression and added to her feelings of seclusion by confining her to her apartment.

To escape “drowning in the clutter” of her room, she turned to knitting, which she said helps soothe her mind. Although Ms Prescod admitted that while knitting isn't a cure for her feelings during the pandemic, it did allow her to put "everything else on pause”.

She said of her win: “I would like to say thank you so much to the Wellcome Photography Prize. This is an absolute honour. I would also like to thank my family and especially my grandfather who bought me my first camera.”

"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, but I'm glad that even taking it, I guess, could touch on something that a lot of us have been going through in this pandemic. And that's been really hard, so I just want to say thank you."

For winning the category, Ms Prescod received £10,000, plus £1,000 for her category win.

The Big Fish – making depression visible

The Managing Mental Health (series) category winner, Morteza Niknahad, from Iran, won £1,000.

Inspired by a local Iranian myth, Mr Niknahad reimagined his mother’s long-standing depression as a fish-like monster haunting her – a constant enemy for her to struggle against.

He explained: “In the Big Fish project, I talked about my mother and a family secret. It was a difficult decision, but I am happy because, with the project, I helped my mother. Many thanks to my mother and the whole family. And thanks to all my colleagues who helped me in the Big Fish project. And also, I am highly grateful to the Wellcome Photography Prize to make my mother’s story be heard more.”

Wellcome – making the world more inclusive of mental health science

Miranda Wolpert, director of mental health, Wellcome, commented that the competition's goal was to bring to the fore "new voices and perspectives" and to explore the macro and micro multi-dimensionality of mental health.

She said: “The world needs a more inclusive mental health science. Wellcome wants to widen science to include new voices and perspectives, and all forms of rigorous exploration of evidence, from the cellular to the social.”

“Right now, we are supporting the mental health science community to align around common goals, foster creative research, and involve people with lived experience every step of the way. Our focus is on finding effective, scalable and acceptable ways to prevent, intervene, stop relapse and manage anxiety, depression and psychosis in young people globally. We want approaches that are tailored for both individuals and contexts in high and low resource settings.”