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Wellcome Photography Prize 2020 shortlist: mental health in a changing world

  • Written by  Jacob Dykes
  • Published in Geophoto
Wellcome Photography Prize 2020 shortlist: mental health in a changing world Nyancho NwaNri
23 Jul
The shortlist for the 2020 Wellcome Photography Prize has been announced, with a series of photographs depicting the annual floods in Lagos among the candidates

With a population of more than 20 million people, Lagos is now the largest city in Africa. Every year, annual floods wreak havoc on the homes and livelihoods of its soaring population. Displacements and destruction of homes are commonplace, while the spread of vector-borne diseases is a mounting threat. Now, with high intensity rainfall exacerbated by climate change, combined with rising sea-levels, the floods are getting worse. 

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As a Lagos-based photographer, Nyancho NwaNri has a deep personal connection to the annual flooding. Her series Going Under has been shortlisted for the Wellcome Photography prize 2020 (released today) which this year has the theme of mental health. Her photographs provide an intimate portrayal of the toll that living in flood zones has on Lagos’ people.

‘My interest in the floods was first piqued in 2018 when I saw a woman come out of her house with rain boots on,’  says Nyancho. ‘I thought it was just the streets affected, but she told me that the inside of her house was flooded. I noticed then that she was pregnant, and it struck me.’

The sight became a turning point for Nyancho. ‘Imagine having to live with metre-high water in your house for six months out of a whole year. I started to think about the strain that must place on people’s mental health. Whenever flooding is mentioned, there is mention of the damage to property and lives, and of the water-borne diseases, but the conversation around the effect on people’s mental states is lacking.’

Take a look at Nyacho’s series of photographs below along with some of the other shortlisted entries...

Going Under credit Nyancho NwaNri 5A mother carries her child to school through the floodwaters. ‘The human connection is always what draws people into a photograph,’ says Nyancho. ‘For six months of the year, they have to live with this in their everyday.’

Going Under credit Nyancho NwaNri 1Two men sit on a dampened bed. ‘Imagine if you tried to get out of bed and your legs landed in water. You then have your breakfast, surrounded by water. I began to think how demoralising that would become,’ says Nyancho

Going Under credit Nyancho NwaNri 2A man holds his feet from the floodwaters on a makeshift stool [Nyancho NwaNri]

Going Under credit Nyancho NwaNri 3 A young girl looks at a family album damaged by the floodwater. ‘I chose to photograph the photo album because it represented fond memories to the families. It spoke of the loss of personal connections that the flooding has. Imagine losing the documentation of your childhood, or special family moments,’ says Nyancho.

Going Under credit Nyancho NwaNri 4‘The owner of the house was so despondent that he asked me to very quickly take my picture so that we could both leave,’ says Nyancho. ‘For him, the pain of seeing that house – the house that he one day dreamed of raising his son – was too much to bear.’

Other shortlisted images

Category: Hidden World

Category: Medicine in focus

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