Press release

Siân Davey commissioned by Wellcome to capture stories of mental health

Wellcome has commissioned award-winning photographer Siân Davey to produce a new photography series, 'Testament', intimately exploring the link between depression, anxiety and families living in poverty. This series is based on the theme of the Wellcome Photography Prize 2020 – mental health.


Siân Davey is an award-winning photographer, based in south-west England. Following a 15-year career as a psychotherapist, she launched her image-making career in 2014, drawing on professional experiences to inform her work. Her community-centred photography is an investigation of her own psychological landscapes and of those around her. 

Producing stills in colour film, this new series 'Testament', will explore the relationship between income and mental health. To do this, Davey will initially work intimately, sensitively and collaboratively with families as they go about their daily lives. This commission will not only provide a voice for the women’s stories, but seeks to expose the direct relationship between poverty, depression and anxiety within society. 

Siân Davey said: "I am delighted to have been selected by Wellcome to produce a new photography commission alongside the Wellcome Photography Prize 2020. I am focusing on telling the stories of single mothers, in south-west England. In my experience as a psychotherapist, I have directly seen the isolating impacts of depression. Economic insecurity compounds the problem, adding mental health to the issues of worries these families have to deal with.

"There are very few photographic responses to the relationship between mental health and austerity measures. I look forward to sharing progress as the commission develops over the next few months."

Professor Miranda Wolpert, Head of Mental Health at Wellcome, said: "There is a real need to find fresh visual narratives in relation to mental health problems. It is too easy to fall back on the same images such as despairing heads in hands, sometimes referred to as ‘headclutcher’ shots.

"Wellcome is seeking better visual representations of the diverse experiences of living with or recovering from mental health problems. We are really excited to have commissioned Siân Davey to work on this series and shine a light on the mental health experiences of the families she is collaborating with."

The aim of the Wellcome Photography Prize is to highlight compelling imagery that stimulates conversations about the greatest health challenges of our time. Mental health is one such challenge, affecting one in four people each year. 

In addressing how people living with, or recovering from, mental health problems are represented on camera, this year’s theme aims to transform public perceptions of mental health, dispel clichés and explore the reality of mental health. This new commission particularly focuses on depression and anxiety, which affects over 600 million individuals across the world. 

Wellcome, one of the world’s biggest funders of medical research, is investing £200 million in research to develop new treatments and approaches for depression and anxiety. Returning for its second year, the international Wellcome Photography Prize invites professional, student or amateur photographers to submit images that focus on stories from health, medicine and science affecting society and individuals worldwide across five categories.

Siân Davey has been the recipient of numerous awards including more recently, the Arnold Newman Award for New Directions in Portraiture and the Prix Virginia Woman's Photography Award. Her work has been included in the National Portrait Gallery's Taylor Wessing Portrait Award for the last three years. Her book 'Looking for Alice' was shortlisted for the Aperture Best Book Award at Paris Photo 2016.