Podoconiosis, a tropical skin disease contracted from volcanic soil that causes lower-leg elephantiasis and acute pain, has an alarming hold in Ethiopia. The country is thought to have one of the highest global incidences of podo cases, with nearly half of Ethiopians at high risk of developing this under-reported, endemic condition, which is often linked in the local culture to social ostracism and stigma.
London-based photographer Matthew Joseph, shortlisted by Lürzer’s Archive as one of the 200 Best Ad Photographers worldwide, travelled to south Ethiopia to document the stories of podo survivors. In his photo collection Podo, which will be exhibited at London’s Oxo Tower from Wednesday April 24 to Monday May 6, men, women and children of all ages are captured in a series of powerful portraits, which are poignantly juxtaposed with images of their swollen lower limbs. The 54 original archival prints, of which 16 will be on display, are available in two sizes in limited editions of 15, all signed and dated (from £700). Fifty per cent of the profits will benefit NGO Action On Podo, which since 2012 has treated over 30,000 patients and implemented effective prevention programmes (the disease is entirely preventable and easily treatable through the use of appropriate footwear and simple hygiene), with the ultimate goal of eradication in Ethiopia in our lifetime.