We invite photographers and other image makers from all disciplines to enter the Wellcome Photography Prize, which celebrates compelling imagery that captures stories of health, medicine and science.
- Deadline for entries
17 December 2018
- Winners announced
3 July 2019
- Exhibition opens
4 July 2019
Previously the Wellcome Image Awards, our newly relaunched competition will reward pictures that show the importance of health in society and the impact health issues have on people and communities worldwide.
We’re looking for entries that can captivate people with stories of science and medicine, and start conversations about some of the health challenges humanity faces today.
Whether you are a research scientist, a documentary or clinical photographer, an artist, or a photojournalist, this is a great opportunity for you to inspire people to think differently about health, medicine and life.
How to enter
The deadline for entries is 17 December 2018.
The competition is free to enter and you can submit as many images as you like, but you can't enter the same image in more than one category. Each entry will be judged individually and should work as a standalone image.
If you're submitting more than one image from the same series, consider which images have the most impact and only submit those that offer something unique.
As the image maker you will retain full copyright over your own work. We just ask for permission to use your images in the context of the prize (in exhibitions, promotions, publications and media coverage including social media) for three years.
For winning and shortlisted images only, we also ask for ongoing permission to use your image in the context of the prize and to support Wellcome’s broader charitable work. This is so that we can continue discussions about the health issues and stories to which the images relate.
Read the competition terms and conditions for more information.
Prizes and publicity
Images will be shortlisted and then winners chosen by a panel of high-profile judges.
The winner of each category will receive £1,250, with the overall winner receiving a prize of £15,000. Prizes will be presented at an awards ceremony in London on 3 July 2019.
All the winning and shortlisted entries will go on show in a major public exhibition at Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, from 4-13 July 2019.
If you’re a winner, we will also offer you opportunities to take part in events to showcase your work to a range of audiences. Our winning images receive extensive international media coverage each year.
The winner of the Medicine in Focus category will be invited to produce the Julie Dorrington commission, a photo story exploring and documenting a patient’s journey with their condition.
There are four categories in the competition:
The images shown in each category are to inspire you but are for illustration only. Your entry doesn't necessarily need to be in a similar style or about a similar topic. We're open to all perspectives.
Category 1: Social perspectives
After being chained for 17 years in West Java, Indonesia, a woman (Yayah) with mental illness is released back into society with help from a psychiatrist and volunteers. The practice of using shackles and chains (known in Bahasa Indonesia as 'pasung') to physically restrain people with mental illness is widespread in Indonesia and many other low- and middle-income countries. The Indonesian government was the first to establish a national programme aimed at eradicating this practice.
Erminia Colucci. Reproduced with permission.
A man moves waste at one of two landfills in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos has a population of around 21 million people, but only produces around 2 million tons of waste a year, 15 times less than New York City. Thousands of scavengers work at the landfill helping to recycle under harrowing conditions.
Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR. Reproduced with permission.
Photograph of menstrual blood, created as part of a conceptual art project ‘Beauty in Blood’. There are stigmas and taboos about menstruation in many cultures around the world, and menstruation and menstrual hygiene are still pivotal issues for gender equality and human rights.
Jen and Rob Lewis/Beauty in Blood. Reproduced with permission.
In a desert community in Djibouti, close to the Somali border, the village women meet to discuss the customary practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). This is internationally recognised as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, but it continues to occur, in Africa and the Middle East and among diaspora communities elsewhere. Long-term complications include incontinence, infertility and psychological trauma.
Nancy Durrell McKenna/SafeHands For Mothers. Reproduced with permission.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island, near the North Pole. This doomsday vault was built ten years ago in an abandoned Arctic coal mine to store and preserve plant seeds. The vault safeguards agricultural diversity from natural disaster, war and gene bank mismanagement.
Spencer Lowell. Reproduced with permission.
In 2015, Camel Fung Kam-hung, 65, was the first competitor using a running blade to finish the Atacama Crossing Chile part of the 4 Deserts race series. After discovering a crack in his prosthesis during the race, he used tape, glue and determination to not only complete the 250km but win the team competition, together with his wife Icero Fung and friend Raymond Chak. Their team name was Five Legs Never Quit.
Thiago Diz/RacingThePlanet. Reproduced with permission.
Some suggestions to get you thinking:
- provide insights into the impact of health conditions, disease and disability
- start conversations about health taboos
- connect the planet’s health with our own
- raise awareness of health issues that are little-known outside the areas they affect
- explore medical technology used in social contexts.
Dual-energy computed tomography scan of a person who received a mechanical heart pump (coloured blue) while waiting for a heart transplant. Virtual X-ray slices were taken of the chest and used to create a digital model. Layers of tissue were then made transparent to check the connections between the heart and pump.
Anders Persson, Wellcome Image Award winner 2014.
UV-induced visible fluorescence photograph of a magnolia flower. High-intensity UV lights were used to excite the flower’s natural fluorescence. In traditional Japanese Kampo medicine, closed magnolia flower buds are used to treat rhinitis. Recent research has identified new chemical compounds in the magnolia flower which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Craig P Burrows. Reproduced with permission.
Coloured scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo. The zebrafish is a small, tropical, freshwater fish that originally comes from Asia. As the embryos are transparent, you can watch their internal organs change as they grow. Zebrafish embryos are approximately 1 cm long.
Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy, Wellcome Image Award winners 2014.
Coloured scanning electron micrograph of a drug (orange) coated with synthetic polymers (blue). Coating a drug in this way can target its release in specific parts of the digestive tract or cause it to be released slowly. This can reduce side-effects and the number of times a patient needs to take the medication.
Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy, Wellcome Image Award winners 2009.
Over an eight-week period, 92,915 tweets were collected to study the communication of #breastcancer. This graph shows how Twitter users, each represented by a node, are connected through their retweeting and sharing of the #breastcancer hashtag. Computer analysis has been used to convert this 3D data into a 2D pattern.
Eric Clarke, Richard Arnett and Jane Burns, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Wellcome Image Award winners 2017.
Photograph of a pregnant uterus from a New Forest pony, approximately five months into the pregnancy. The developing pony fetus is outside the uterus but remains attached by its membranes. Its vast blood supply can be seen on the inner surface of the uterus. This historical specimen is stored in a container 48 cm x 30 cm x 7 cm.
Michael Frank, Royal Veterinary College, Wellcome Image Award winner 2015.
3D micrograph of cells from the curved surface of the developing zebrafish eye. This uses a new imaging technique that combines minimally invasive lattice light-sheet microscopy with adaptive optics, allowing individual cells to be digitally separated and studied in more detail. Specific structures inside the cell are digitally coloured (plasma membrane in blue, the Golgi in green, endoplasmic reticulum in purple and mitochondria in orange). Width of image is approximately 0.4 mm.
Eric Betzig et al. Science vol. 360, issue 6386, eaaq1392. Reproduced with permission from the AAAS.
Some suggestions to get you thinking:
- highlight tiny details that are hidden in plain sight
- reveal the cellular structures that underpin life and health
- connect people with exciting biomedical research
- show ways to diagnose or detect disease more effectively
- use cutting-edge imaging technologies to let people watch science at work.
Category 3: Medicine in focus
This baby was born early and has jaundice, a common condition which turns the skin and eyes yellow. The baby is being treated in an incubator and lies under a blue coloured light, with covered eyes.
David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital, London. Wellcome Image Award winner 2016.
A patient being treated by an eye doctor at a makeshift eye clinic in India. Such clinics are set up in a range of places so that doctors can reach more patients. At this clinic, those requiring further treatment were taken to Kalinga Eye Hospital in Dhenkanal, Odisha, where they received eye surgery. They returned to their villages the following day.
Susan Smart. Wellcome Image Award winner 2017.
This photograph shows the brain surface of a person with epilepsy. The image displays the bright red arteries that supply the brain with nutrients and oxygen, and the purple veins that remove deoxygenated blood. This photograph was taken before an intracranial electrode recording procedure for epilepsy, in which electrical activity is measured from the exposed surface of the brain.
Robert Ludlow, UCL Institute of Neurology. Wellcome Image Award winner 2012.
Rows of bags filled with donated human blood hang from hooks as they undergo processing after arriving at the blood centre. Red blood cells and plasma pass through filters, to remove the larger white blood cells, and collect in the bags below.
Greg White. Reproduced with permission.
CaStar respiratory hood for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP is a type of ventilator which provides non-invasive breathing support to keep a person's airways open.
Reiner Riedler/Anzenberger. Reproduced with permission.
Howie and Laurel, husband and wife of 34 years, sit side by side as they receive their weekly chemotherapy treatments. Howie calls these "his and hers" chairs. He had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and Laurel was being treated for breast cancer for the third time in her life.
Nancy Borowick/The Family Imprint. Reproduced with permission.
Some suggestions to get you thinking:
- explore healthcare delivery, whether high-tech hospital treatment or improvised medicine in the field
- uncover local community clinics and outreach work
- show the personal impact of medical conditions and treatments (from the common to the rare)
- open up hard-to-access areas – on the ward, in theatre, in high-level containment units or in isolated parts of the world
- explain specialised medical equipment.
Category 4: Outbreaks (2019 theme)
A man singes the hair off a bushbuck carcass at Atwemonom, one of the oldest bushmeat markets in Ghana. As loggers, miners and farmers are clearing more and more of the bush, hunters are being forced into previously undisturbed areas, which increases their risk of coming into contact with disease-carrying animals. After the emergence of Ebola, the bushmeat business collapsed as public health messages suggested eating bushmeat could spread the disease.
Nyani Quarmyne/Panos Pictures. Reproduced with permission.
X-ray of a brown long-eared bat, commonly found in the UK and across Europe. Some bats carry diseases, such as the virus that causes rabies, that can be passed on to humans, for example through a bite. This bat is about 5 cm long.
Chris Thorn. Wellcome Image Award winner 2014.
In Chichigalpa, chronic kidney disease of non-traditional causes (CKDnT) affects more than half of the adult population. CKDnT is associated with heavy labour in hot temperatures, and affects many agricultural workers. These boys have lost two cousins to CKDnT, both men who worked as cutters in sugarcane fields. The boys’ mother still works as a cutter, and they hope to get a chance to do so themselves.
Joshua McDonald. Wellcome Image Award winner 2017.
Coloured scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from an infected cell (yellow). Ebola virus disease first appeared during outbreaks in Africa in the mid-1970s. The virus spreads between humans through direct contact with infected blood, secretions and organs, or with surfaces or bedding already contaminated with these fluids.
National Institutes of Health/Science Photo Library. Reproduced with permission.
Cleane Stephanny Silva, 18, brushes the hair of her one-month-old cousin, Maria Eduarda, who was born with microcephaly in Brazil. The parents of Maria Eduarda, who are extremely poor, did not want the baby so Cleane and an aunt will raise her. The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause a distinctive pattern of birth defects (called congenital Zika syndrome) which includes severe microcephaly, brain damage and eye abnormalities.
Lianne Milton/Panos Pictures. Reproduced with permission.
People wait for food being distributed by the World Food Programme in West Point, a slum in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, in September 2014. With a population of 75,000 people in a small area with poor sanitation, sickness is common in the township. A holding centre in West Point for people suspected of having the Ebola virus was overrun and shut down by a crowd only weeks before. Liberia reported more than 10,000 cases of Ebola disease during the 2014–15 epidemic.
Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images. Reproduced with permission.
What are scientists doing to track the molecular signature of a disease as it moves through a community? What burden does an outbreak create for health services, and how does it affect the people it leaves behind? While fast-moving outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika create fear and uncertainty, what stories of hope, courage and human resilience can we find alongside them?
In recent years, outbreaks of measles, mumps, whooping cough and chickenpox have reappeared in high-income countries where access to vaccines is not usually an issue. Why are these preventable diseases making such an aggressive return?
And what about the indirect health threats from an outbreak? In a public health emergency, it can be harder for people with long-term conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and lung disease to get the care they need. How do they cope? And are they more at risk from the infectious disease itself as a result?
Some suggestions to get you thinking:
- explore the burden that a disease outbreak places on a community
- investigate how outbreaks bring people together
- expose the molecular features of infectious and non-infectious disease outbreaks
- follow a disease as it spreads
- understand the pressures that epidemics place on our healthcare systems
- look at how we fight current and future threats to our health.
We are open to entries created with the following techniques, or any other you want to use:
- photography (eg documentary, clinical, studio, still life)
- close-up photography (eg photomacrography, macro photography, photomicrography)
- microscopy (eg light, electron, super-resolution)
- medical imaging (eg CT, PET, MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, thermography)
- new and emerging imaging technologies
- data visualisation
- artistic media (eg illustration, 3D printing, sculpture, ceramics, mixed media).
Some image-making techniques will be better suited to particular categories, but however you create your entry it’s up to you to choose which category fits it best.
Emma Bowkett is Director of Photography at FT Weekend Magazine, UK.
Dan M Davis is Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester, UK.
Neville Miles Photography
Dr Heidi Larson is Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK.
Joanne Liu is International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, Switzerland.
Pete Muller is National Geographic Photographer and Fellow, Kenya.
Azu Nwagbogu is Curator at Large for Photography at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Nigeria.
The judges for the 2019 prize are:
- Emma Bowkett, Director of Photography at FT Weekend Magazine, UK
- Dan M Davis, Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester, UK
- Dr Heidi Larson, Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK
- Joanne Liu, International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, Switzerland
- Pete Muller, National Geographic Photographer and Fellow, Kenya
- Azu Nwagbogu, Curator at Large for Photography at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Nigeria.
The judges panel will be chaired by Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome.
If you would like to know more about the prize:
T +44 (0)20 7611 8215
For media enquiries:
T +44 (0)20 7611 8866
Credit for main image: Anne-Katrin Purkiss. Wellcome Image Award winner 2009.