Winner of the 2015 Wellcome Image Awards announced

An astonishing image of a pregnant pony's uterus has been selected as the overall winner of the 2015 Wellcome Image Awards.

The photograph was taken by Michael Frank and shows a specimen from the Lanyon Anatomy Museum of the Royal Veterinary College in London. It captures the preserved uterus of a New Forest pony, approximately five months into the pregnancy, with the developing fetus still attached.

James Cutmore, Picture Editor of BBC Focus magazine, was a member of this year's judging panel. He said: "As far as standout images go, the image of the horse’s uterus with the fetus still inside was incredible and just sticks in my mind. It evokes many different emotions at once. It’s fascinating, sad, macabre, almost brutal. Yet the subject is also delicate, detailed and beautiful. The image shows us a large and magnificent creature reduced to this sad, fragile and half-formed creation, which I find very humbling."

The photograph was described by Tim Smit, Founding Director of the Eden Project - and one of the other judges on this year's panel - as "hypnotic, like a Hieronymus Bosch painting…only it is real and truly marvellous". It forms part of a project that has seen Michael collaborate with Nick Short from the Royal Veterinary College to bring a new perspective to a selection of historic specimens.

This specimen, along with several others, has been preserved in formalin and was photographed through its Perspex container. They remain in the museum and can be viewed by the public. Another image from the series that shows the reticulum (stomach chamber) of a goat is also included in this year’s awards.

Michael said: "I am delighted that this image has been chosen as the 2015 Wellcome Image Awards’ overall winner. This project has involved many hours working with Nick Short at the Royal Veterinary College, and our vision was to capture these incredible specimens, which have sat for many years on the shelves of the Lanyon Anatomy Museum.

"Using sophisticated photographic techniques, we were able to rejuvenate these special dissections and make them available to a whole new audience of students, academics and the public. I like to think that this digital format is a fitting tribute to all the skill of past generations of anatomists in creating these resources and the many generations of vets who have benefited from studying them."

This is the third time that an overall winner has been chosen. The photo is one of 20 winning images that were selected to showcase the best in science imaging from all those acquired by the Wellcome Images picture library in the past year. Other images include a scanning electron micrograph of a greenfly’s eye, a clinical photograph of an elderly lady’s curved spine, an illustration of pollen grains and a picture showing the intricacies of a paediatric multi-sensory unit.

Scientist and broadcaster Adam Rutherford, who presented this year’s awards, said: "The breathtaking riches of the imagery that science generates are so important in telling stories about research and helping us to understand often abstract concepts. It's not just about imaging the very small, either: it's about understanding life, death, sex and disease, the cornerstones of drama and art. Once again, the Wellcome Image Awards celebrate all of this and more with this year’s incredible range of winning images."

From 19 March the winning images will be exhibited at 11 science centres, museums and galleries, from the Eden Project in Cornwall to Satrosphere in Aberdeen, and as far afield as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Koch Institute), USA. They will display the images in their own styles to spark imaginations everywhere.

Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images and a member of the judging panel, said: "This year’s selection of winning images is not only beautiful; they bring to life an incredible array of innovative imaging techniques, and hint at stories and ideas that go beyond the visual. We are thrilled that they will be displayed in so many venues and look forward to seeing the range of exhibitions, as diverse as the images themselves."

The images will also be displayed in the window of the Wellcome Trust's headquarters in London and will be available on the Wellcome Image Awards website. They already feature in Wellcome Images' collections, where they can be accessed and used along with more than 40,000 other contemporary biomedical and clinical images. The Awards were established in 1997 to reward contributors to the collection for their outstanding work.

Since 2011 Wellcome Images has partnered with the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bringing images of their work into the Awards. This year each organisation will feature an image from their respective selections in the other’s awards and provide a judge for each panel: Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images, and Anne Deconinck, Executive Director at the Koch Institute. More information can be found about the Koch Institute Public Galleries and Image Awards on their website.

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