Depiction of Crohn’s Disease wins Wellcome Image Award

16 March 2017

Depiction of Crohn’s Disease wins Wellcome Image Award

A captivating digital illustration portraying a personal experience of Crohn’s Disease has been selected as the overall winner for the 2017 Wellcome Image Awards. It is one of 22 winning images selected to reward and showcase the best in science image making.

Stickman – The Vicissitudes of Crohn’s (Resolution) is a striking computer-generated image which conveys the physical and emotional experience of Crohn’s Disease, a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the digestive system. It is part of a series incorporating Stickman, the alter-ego of illustrator Spooky Pooka (Oliver Burston), who suffers from Crohn’s Disease. Stickman’s skeletal body references the weight loss, frailty and abrupt, transformative nature of Crohn’s. 

Fergus Walsh, BBC Medical Correspondent and member of the judging panel said: “This image is a stunning representation of what it must be like to have Crohn’s Disease and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before in terms of the portrayal of someone’s condition: it conveys the pain and torment the sufferer must go through. The image really resonates and is beautifully composed: it’s a haunting piece.”

Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images and chair of the judging panel added: “This image instantly stands out: its dark style and stark contrast are really striking. This representation of Crohn’s draws the viewer in and gives a unique insight into the raw pain experienced and expressed by this talented artist."

This year's awards also saw the second Julie Dorrington Award for outstanding photography in a clinical environment. This was awarded to a detailed close-up photograph by Mark Bartley, showing how an ‘iris clip’ is fitted onto the eye. Iris clips are used to treat nearsightedness and cataracts. The patient in the image, a 70-year-old man, regained almost full vision following his surgery. 

Catherine Draycott explained: “This extreme close-up shows the expertise of the clinical photographer in illustrating with such clarity and precision this minuscule lens that, clipped by a surgeon into the human iris itself, can restore a patient’s vision.”

The awards were presented at a ceremony at Wellcome in London on 15 March. Other award-winning images include a beautiful illustration of Nobel laureate and neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini, a glimpse at the intricate system of blood vessels inside an African Grey Parrot and a fascinating visualisation of Twitter conversations about breast cancer.

The Wellcome Image Awards were established in 1997 to reward contributors to the Wellcome Images collection for their outstanding work. Over the last twenty years as science and technology has progressed, the awards have embraced new styles and pushed the boundaries of science image making.

12 science centres, museums and galleries, from the Eden Project in Cornwall to Aberdeen Science Centre, will be displaying the winning images in their own styles to spark imaginations everywhere. This year the images will also be appearing as far afield as the Africa Centre for Population Health in South Africa and the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow, Russia.

The images will also be displayed in the windows of Wellcome’s HQ in London, and are available to view on the Wellcome Image Awards website along with the stories behind the images and their creators. 

Since 2011 Wellcome Images have also partnered with the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bringing images of their work into the Awards. This year, each organisation features an image from their respective selections in the other’s Awards and provides a judge for each. More information about the Koch Institute Public Galleries and Image Awards can be found on their website.