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...
A 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.’
Two 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
A man holds his feet from the floodwaters on a makeshift stool [Nyancho NwaNri]
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.
‘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
- Blood Speaks, Poulomi Basu, Surkhet district, Nepal, 2016: Saraswati, a 16-year-old new mother, is being carried from her village to the nearest hospital – a three hour journey that will involve a river crossing
- Body Index, J Houston, New York, USA, 2019: For years, J Houston has dealt with a form of chronic pain called vulvodynia, at the same time as going through a gender transition. They have received many medical treatments – some helpful, some traumatic, and not always voluntary. Frustrated that people don’t take seriously what they cannot see, Houston has been keeping a tattoo archive to document these interventions
- Monankim, Jenevieve Aken, Cross River State, Nigeria, 2017: A teenage girl sits in her healing room, having recently been circumcised. This makes her, in the language of the Bakor people, a Monankim
- You, the Living, Patricia Morosan, Berlin, Germany, 2019: Louka was born female but rejects the traditional gender binary, identifying as neither a man nor a woman. They have started taking small doses of testosterone to make their body more masculine in subtle ways.
- Before Waking Up, Giacomo Infantino, Milan, Italy, 2018: Davide, a surgeon at the National Cancer Institute in Milan, looks in on a patient who he earlier gave a liver transplant
Category: Medicine in focus
- After Surgery, Maite Caramés, Barcelona, Spain, 2014: When Valérie was diagnosed with breast cancer, she asked her friend to document her experience of the illness and treatment. When chemotherapy took her hair away, she used a wig to help herself face the world each day
- Care Worker in London, Pierre Bureau London, UK, 2018: Kelly, a care worker, is on one of her home visits, helping Paul with things like changing his pyjamas
- Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Marco Gualazzini, Butembo, DRC, 2019: For Kavira, this is what survival looks like. After she fell ill with Ebola , she recovered – but she lost her father, her husband and her two-month-old son to the disease
- Hadia, Julia Gunther and Sophia Mohammed, Light for the World, Mundri, South Sudan, 2018: Four-month-old Hadia was born with spina bifida , hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain) and club foot. Sophia, a community rehabilitation expert, is showing her mother, Zaina , a treatment called the Ponseti method, which uses stretches and casts to correct Haida's feet
- Tomorrow’s Echo, Sameer Satchu, Lira district, Uganda, 2019: Agness, a qualified midwife, listens to the heartbeat of a fetus. She may not have expensive medical technology – the Pinard horn she’s using here is a 19th - century invention – but she has the right expertise
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