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Stunning portrait photography scoops top spot in Wellcome Photography Prize 2020

Stunning portrait photography scoops top spot in Wellcome Photography Prize 2020
(Image credit: Arseniy Neskhodimov)

Wellcome Photography Prize has recently announced the incredible portrait photography that's scooped its top prize for 2020. Arseniy Neskhodimov won the £15,000 prize for his 'Prozac' series, which is a set of self-portraits that chronicle his efforts to escape his depression. However, this wasn't the only powerful portrait photography that impressed the Wellcome judges.

The Wellcome Photography Prize had five categories this year: Social Perspective, Hidden Worlds, Medicine in Focus and two categories on Mental Health, which was chosen as the special theme for this year. The winner of each category received £1,250, with the overall winner receiving the top prize of £15,000. 

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Arseniy Neskhodimov's winning portrait photography was inspired by his experiences with depression. Having found antidepressants unhelpful, he decided to move out of Moscow and find somewhere that he could be happier, chronicling his own experience. Unfortunately, his depression followed him wherever he went. Neskhodimov's self–portraits reflect this experience in a powerful and vulnerable way.

Arseniy Neskhodimov said: “My self-portrait stories are a kind of therapy that help me fight off the attacks of despair and loss of meaning, especially in this difficult pandemic time. I’ve been trapped at home out of a job for three months and the only thing that brings some sense into my life is to keep taking pictures.”

Mental Health (single image): "Depression is common, which means that having a close relative who’s depressed is even more common. The condition may feel isolating, but it’s not an individual experience. Family members can feel worry, fear and gloom themselves, and they may find themselves becoming unofficial carers. But you do what you can for the people you love. Supportive relationships can be literally lifesaving." (Image credit: Benji Reid)

Arseniy Neskhodimov wasn't the only photographer to utilize the subject of mental health in his portrait photography. Benji Reid, a British artist with a background in physical theatre, used his own experiences with depression to capture a portrait of himself and his daughter. 

"After a particularly difficult period he created this image as a 'love note' to his daughter for being there in his time of need. Both of them are engaged in acts of escapism – her mundanely, through her phone, and him fantastically, as a 'broken astronaut', floating up into the air. But he's tethered to her, and the simple, comforting fact of her presence keeps him in the real world." 

The Wellcome Photography Prize is a project by Wellcome, an independent charitable foundation supporting research to improve health. Wellcome is one of the world’s biggest funders of mental health research and recently committed an additional £200m to develop a new generation of approaches and treatments for anxiety and depression. Discover a selection of the winning and shortlisted entries below, or check out the full list on the Wellcome Photography Prize 2020 website.

Social Perspectives: "Hannah has scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine. Over the last three years she has worn a series of corseted braces, designed to restrict her body’s natural growth in order to control the condition. Aged 12, she is about to embark on puberty, which will bring further physical changes. The brace, which she has to wear 23 hours a day, is painful to fit – but with help from friends and family Hannah has decorated it to make it her own. This photography project – by Julia Cybularz, Hannah’s aunt – offered a means of self-expression. And Hannah later had spinal surgery, giving her much more mobility." (Image credit: Julia Cybularz)

Social Perspectives: "Adrian wraps his arms around his son Luca, on their way home from school. Adrian is blind, which means that touch is a central part of their relationship. For work, he runs training courses on assistive technology for people with visual impairments. As a father, he puts trust in his son to help with everyday activities, from navigating supermarkets to keeping the floor clear of toys. They look after each other." (Image credit: Gianluca Urdiroz Agati)

Social Perspectives: "Daisy, 38, and her mother Sonia, 58, are heading home just after finding out that Daisy has the gene linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sonia has had the disease for ten years. A teacher for 29 years, Sonia now needs full-time care from Daisy, accompanying her to work and sitting in the corner with coloring books and crayons. 'I’ve looked into homes but I don’t have the heart to do it,' Daisy says. 'She’s my world. Why would I turn my back on her now when she needs me the most?'" (Image credit: Ed Kashi)

Mental Health (series): "Prozac: Self-Portrait in Aida Hotel: After arriving at the cheapest hotel he could find in Sharm El Sheikh, he sits in his gloomy room. It was off season and nobody else was there. He is starting to realize that the fun he had hoped for is not to be found." (Image credit: Arseniy Neskhodimov)

Social Perspectives: "Rusmini (better known as Mak Muji) is the only midwife serving a community of 18,000 people based in and around the largest landfill site in Indonesia. She has helped thousands of women through pregnancy and labour in the 13 years she has lived here, free of charge, and she is loved and respected across the community. Like her neighbours, Mak Muji searches the landfill for things to sell – she prefers to go at night, with her head torch, to avoid the worst of the heat." (Image credit: Elisabetta Zavoli)

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