The pandemic underscores winning work at Wellcome Photography Prize 2021

Winners of this year’s prize address the challenges wrought by the pandemic, from the impact of isolation on mental health to everyday struggles faced by trans women in Indonesia

Untangling by Jameisha Prescod

The winner of the single image prize is London-based journalist and filmmaker Jameisha Prescod for her photograph Untangling – a self-portrait examining the impact of lockdown on her experience of depression.

Having been forced to eat, work, sleep and socialise in the same room, Prescod took up knitting as a means of detaching from her surroundings.

Meanwhile Yoppy Pieter, based in Jakarta, won the series image prize with his entry Trans Woman: Between Colour and Voice. The series seeks to illustrate the challenges imposed upon trans women in Indonesia – from employment to healthcare access – and how these have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

One photograph is made in Depok, an area home to a community of trans women who are struggling to pay rent due to Covid-19, while another image features a sex worker, Mira (not her real name), who has had to move her work online during these times.

The Time of Coronavirus by Aly Song
Climate Cost by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury

Four finalists were announced alongside the two overall winners, and the pandemic featured once again – this time in Aly Song’s image The Time of Coronavirus, which shows humanitarian volunteers disinfecting the Wintai Grand Theatre in Wuhan.

The other finalists cover mental health and climate change, which were key topics at this year’s prize. Zakir Hossain Chowdhury’s photograph Climate Cost shows a man called Haibur rescuing his belongings in the aftermath of a cyclone in Bangladesh, which left him struggling to source food or medical care, while Hashem Shakeri’s series An Elegy for the Death of Hamun documents the effects of climate change in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province in Iran.

Finally, Morteza Niknahad wove Iranian mythology into his interpretation of his mother’s depression, which is visualised as a persistent fish-like monster.

“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 chair of the Prize. “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.”

View all of the winning work at