A tender photograph, providing a personal insight into life with autism, has been announced as the overall winner of the Wellcome Photography Prize 2019. 'I Feel Relaxed When I Play with String', taken by Erin Lefevre, is a powerful photograph of her teenage brother Liam.
Liam has autism and finds that playing with string helps him relax. This is an example of stimming, or self-stimulating – a repetitive action to help him cope when he experiences sensory overload. Many children on the autism spectrum use stimming actions like hand-flapping, repeating a specific noise or playing with a certain object.
Erin Lefevre, a documentary photographer from New York City, took the photograph as part of a series called 'Liam’s World'.
Amplifying the voices and experiences of people on the autism spectrum is so important. There are many stereotypical notions of what autism looks like – with Liam’s World, my objective is to help uplift my brother and empower people to speak for themselves.
Erin Lefevre. Winner of the Wellcome Photography Prize 2019.
Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome and chair of the judges’ panel, said: “The 2019 winning photograph is one of the most powerful images that I have seen in many years. It is an incredibly tender photograph that speaks to us all about the life of a young boy, but beyond that, in a beautifully intimate way, of what makes us all human.”
The category winners
Lefevre’s winning photo was selected from 28 shortlisted images that tell stories of health, medicine and science. It also won the Social Perspectives prize category.
The other category winners are:
Outbreaks – David Chancellor for 'Virus Hunters', showing how researchers are identifying diseases that can spread from animal to human before they become a pandemic threat.
Medicine in Focus – Dmitry Kostyukov for 'Zora the Robot Care-Giver', exploring the role robots could play in helping care for society’s ageing population.
Hidden Worlds – Simone Cerio for 'Love Givers', revealing a little-known story of disability, sex and wellbeing.
The Wellcome Photography Prize 2019 category winners (from left to right): Simone Cerio (Hidden Worlds), Erin Lefevre (Social Perspectives and Overall Winner), Dmitry Kostyukov (Medicine in Focus) and David Chancellor (Outbreaks)
The Wellcome Photography Prize 2019 category winners (from left to right): Simone Cerio (Hidden Worlds), Erin Lefevre (Social Perspectives and Overall Winner), Dmitry Kostyukov (Medicine in Focus) and David Chancellor (Outbreaks).
Pete Muller, National Geographic Photographer and Fellow, and a member of the judging panel, said: “I was astounded and inspired by the extent of critical thought and diversity of execution that we encountered judging the contest this year. The photographers who put work forward are examining the nexus of human health and sociology in new and fascinating ways.”
Explore the winning and shortlisted photos – online or in person
The winners, along with the other entrants on the 28-strong shortlist, are on display in the Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, in London, 4 – 13 July. The exhibition is free and open to all.
It also features a commissioned series by Canadian photojournalist Adrienne Surprenant, on the theme of outbreaks. She tells the human story of dengue fever, one of the deadliest and commonest mosquito-borne diseases. Her remarkable photos capture the devastating human consequences of the disease and the attempts to tackle it, in Bangladesh, Fiji, Brazil and Réunion island in the Indian Ocean.
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