The social issues we face, and how they can be tackled by the social sciences, have been captured with iconic photographs taken by young people who have won this year’s Economic and Social Research Council photographic competition – 'The Bigger Picture'.

The fourth photographic challenge run by the ESRC, this year’s competition tasked 14 to 18 year olds to explore how social science is relevant to their lives – with a picture encapsulating how the world is changing and how it affects them, their families, friends and communities as a whole.

On 20 March, at a special ceremony at the Espacio Gallery in London, the overall winner was announced as 16 year old Maddy Turner, from Reepham High School and College in Norfolk. Maddy's portrait, 'Diversity in the media', highlights the inadequacies of representation of racial diversity in the media and fashion industries. She said:

"I searched through every fashion magazine I could find and didn't come across a single portrait of someone with darker skin.

Photo competition winner, Maddy Turner"Norfolk is one of the least diverse places in the country making people with any kind of difference stand out and face discrimination. This photograph shows how this can make people more self conscious about their skin colour."

The ESRC asked young people to take a photo which showed the 'bigger picture' of society today. Students were asked to consider how things like politics, education, climate change, healthcare, technology, migration and poverty affect them and others. More than 550 images, from 75 schools, across 118 places in the UK, took part. They shared a vast range of inspiring and thought-provoking images, taken not only with their cameras, but smartphones and tablets.

More than £3,800 was awarded to the winners, with prizes divided into five diverse categories: New world order; Age of innovation; Fragile Earth; Being me; and Society in chaos. In addition, the judges were asked to pick their personal favourite, with each winner receiving £50 in vouchers. There was also a prize for the best entry via social media, which was taken by Teddie Summers, from Felsted School in Chelmsford, Essex, for his photo 'Memorial Remembers' – taken at the historic Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin.

For the first time there were five winners (including judges' favourites) from the same institution – the Twyford C of E High School in Ealing in London – who were Soren Harrison, Florence Noon, Olivia Fernandes, Julia Koutas and Shaheena Uddin. Soren, Olivia, Julia and Shaheena's photographs were chosen as judges' favourites, whilst Florence's photo, 'More more more' won the Fragile Earth category.

Other winners included: Gemma Espinosa, of South Devon College in Totnes, won a judge's favourite for her image 'Tagged', highlighting the practices behind cattle farming; whilst Patrick Wilkinson, from Lancaster Royal Grammar School, won the Society in chaos category for 'Another Wrecked Migrant Dinghy', showing an abandoned and wrecked dinghy on an idyllic holiday beach in southern Spain.
Cameron Lawrence, from Reepham High School and College in Norwich, won the New world order category for 'Looking Beyond The Present' / 'Prospects'; and Libby Styles, from Kings Norton Girls' School in Birmingham, won the Age of innovation category for her image, 'The Modern Family'.

The quality of this year's entries was "outstanding" according to the judges. They included: Sophie Batterbury, Pictures Editor at the i newspaper; Phil Coomes, BBC picture editor; Ollie Smallwood, a portrait and documentary photographer; Karin Woodley, ESRC Council member and Chief Executive of Cambridge House; Jacky Clake, ESRC Head of Communications; and Joanne Gallagher, a psychology student at the University of York, who won the competition in 2016.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, Chief Executive and Executive Chair Designate of the ESRC, says:

"Social science encompasses how people behave, understand, impact upon and are influenced by the world around them. So to illustrate how social change affects them and those around them within a photograph is a real challenge, and I am extremely impressed with how this has been successfully captured by so many young people with their brilliant images. I congratulate all of our winners, who have demonstrated not only exceptional artistic talent, but also thoughtfulness, deep insight, and an understanding of the relevance of social science to their lives."

All 67 winning and shortlisted images will be displayed at the Espacio Gallery, and the category winners' photos will also appear in the ESRC's Society Now magazine.

View the winning photos