While health and science photography might often resemble clinical stock imagery, this year’s Wellcome Photography Prize draws no such parallels. With four thought-provoking categories to enter – Social Perspectives, Hidden Worlds, Medicine in Focus and Outbreaks – the competition opened up the boundaries of this lesser-known strand of photography.
All 28 shortlisted entries are being showcased in a newly-opened exhibition which follows the announcement of the four prize winners, including overall competition winner Erin Lefevre. The American documentary photographer’s winning image, I Feel Relaxed When I Play With String, had been entered into the Social Perspectives category, offering an delicate portrayal of her brother Liam and his life as someone on the autistic spectrum. The title, which also figures as a handwritten message on the image itself, refers to how her brother plays with string as a way of coping with overwhelming situations and sensory overload.
Elsewhere, the Hidden Worlds category was won by Italian reporter Simone Cerio for Love Givers, an intimate exploration into the intersection between physical disability and intimacy. Dmitry Kostyukov won the Medicine in Focus category for his photograph examining the relationship between an elderly woman in a nursing home and Zora – a robot designed to help patients with communication and offer comfort. Finally, the Outbreaks category was won by David Chancellor for his photograph Virus Hunters, which follows Kenyan scientists as they screen a baboon for signs of disease.
The remaining entries shortlisted for the prize are all rich and diverse in subject, uncovering the lives of people with social, mental and physical conditions, as well as the medics, researchers and care-givers working to make a difference. Collectively, these photographers are not only peeling the lid back on incredible stories, but also redefining what health and science photography can be.
Wellcome Photography Prize 2019 exhibition runs at Lethaby Gallery, London from July 4-13; wellcome.ac.uk