Alumni Profile: Matilda Temperley

Matilda Temperley, MSc Control of Infectious Diseases ’06, is a successful photographer. After pursuing a career in tropical infectious diseases she happened upon photography. She is known for her stylised portraiture of marginalised societies.

“Having left the LSHTM somewhat sheepishly to earn my living with a camera I was delighted to be invited to write this blog. After studying the control of infectious diseases MSc I stayed at the school working with Simon Brooker for a period. It was a diverse and wonderful time doing cost effectiveness studies for the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative in Latin America and East Africa and looking at methods of malaria control in East Africa. Eventually though my feet itched to be out of London and I went to base myself in the Malaria Consortium in Uganda.

I have always loved cameras and during my time in Uganda I came to the conclusion (quite possibly the wrong conclusion) that I could tell a faster story with a camera. As soon as my time at the Malaria Consortium was done I threaded myself back into London and started scratching a living at anything vaguely photographic whilst moving slowly towards camera competency.

In London my personal work is focussed on my love of mavericks happy to sit outside societies norm. My current book project ‘The Human Zoo’ captures physical diversity from sumo wrestlers to transgender body modification artists, giants and dwarfs. It’s a reflection on circuses through the ages and the joy for me is collecting people’s stories.

My other big project to date was conceived whilst I was living in Uganda and I fell for East Africa’s border regions and their diverse and remote inhabitants. ‘Abysinnian Dreams’  is the resultant ongoing project that documents the people in these rapidly changing areas.

I am often asked if I regret giving up science. In truth I thought I was taking up the camera to tell the stories of the neglected tropical diseases amongst other things without realising how circuitous the journey to a successful photography career would be. It is however a good time to reflect on this because after 5 years of practice and patience under the belt I am about to revisit my fledging project. The project was called ‘This is what an angel looks like” and consisted of portraits of Mulago hospital’s Burkitt’s Lymphoma unit. This autumn will be the test but I am excited that my two working lives can finally collide.”

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