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Prizes

Prozac nation: Russian photographer’s images of depression win 2020 Wellcome Photo Prize

Arseniy Neskhodimov’s photographs raise awareness of mental health in the age of coronavirus

The Moscow-based Russian photographer Arseniy Neskhodimov has won 2020’s Wellcome Photo Prize with his project called Prozac. The series of dark self-portraits depict his troubled state of mind and “fuses raw emotion with a keen sense of the absurd” in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Neskhodimov received £15,000 as the overall winner, and a further £1,250 for scooping first place in the competition’s mental health category.

The Moscow-based Russian photographer Arseniy Neskhodimov has won 2020’s Wellcome Photo Prize with his project called Prozac. The series of dark self-portraits depict his troubled state of mind and “fuses raw emotion with a keen sense of the absurd” in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Neskhodimov received £15,000 as the overall winner, and a further £1,250 for scooping first place in the competition’s mental health category.

“I don’t want my story to only be associated with depression,” he says. “In general, I don’t consider myself a particularly depressed person, instead I am rather pessimistic and moody. However, from time to time I do experience feelings of depression linked to the loss of meaning to things that usually bring joy, like meeting friends, going for a walk in the park, playing football, etc.”

“I don’t want my story to only be associated with depression,” he says. “In general, I don’t consider myself a particularly depressed person, instead I am rather pessimistic and moody. However, from time to time I do experience feelings of depression linked to the loss of meaning to things that usually bring joy, like meeting friends, going for a walk in the park, playing football, etc.”

The five images are both bleak and humorous. One shows the photographer supine under a fallen Christmas tree, while another is of Neskhodimov naked and hunched over on the end of his bed. “My favourite photo is the one with petals on the ground, it’s the most surreal in the series and very beautiful,” he says. “The coronavirus stalled my job for six months, but it also gave me a huge amount of time to work on my next project. The pandemic convinced me that humans control nothing and that we live in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty.”

The five images are both bleak and humorous. One shows the photographer supine under a fallen Christmas tree, while another is of Neskhodimov naked and hunched over on the end of his bed. “My favourite photo is the one with petals on the ground, it’s the most surreal in the series and very beautiful,” he says. “The coronavirus stalled my job for six months, but it also gave me a huge amount of time to work on my next project. The pandemic convinced me that humans control nothing and that we live in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty.”

The Wellcome Photo Prize focused on mental well-being for its 2020 edition after Covid-19 drastically reduced social contact around the world. “Mental health is difficult to depict and often hard to explain, which leads to misunderstanding and stigma,” the competition organisers said in a statment. “The shortlisted photographers have, in no small feat, managed to convey both the interiority of their subjects and the stigmas around various mental health issues, asking us to look more closely and think more openly.”

The Wellcome Photo Prize focused on mental well-being for its 2020 edition after Covid-19 drastically reduced social contact around the world. “Mental health is difficult to depict and often hard to explain, which leads to misunderstanding and stigma,” the competition organisers said in a statment. “The shortlisted photographers have, in no small feat, managed to convey both the interiority of their subjects and the stigmas around various mental health issues, asking us to look more closely and think more openly.”