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Matilde Simas…

 is a photographer who explores the capacity of photography to generate social change, activate affect, and empower storytelling. Her work focuses on issues of dignity and human rights around the world, illuminating the enduring strength of victims, survivors, people affected by trauma, and the state of endangered ecosystems. In her work, the body and the landscape become subjects of elaborate narratives, but she actively seeks to allow her subjects agency – a way to impact the story and reclaim truth. 

In 2017 Matilde founded Capture Humanity, an artistic collaborative organization, in which she is lead photographer and director. The aim is to document humanitarian groups that assist women, children, marginalized communities, and conservation efforts. Patience, commitment, and integrity are the core of their effort to inspire greater creative and social consciousness. 

It was during an assignment to capture the work of HAART Kenya, an organization that works to combat human trafficking and empower survivors, she discovered how her identity as a woman helped her connect with the survivors.  “There’s a special role for women photographers in documenting human conditions; our ability to connect on a more emotional level with others lends itself to this type of work. Our sensitive approach to documenting human conditions is celebrated, and we tend to be allowed access to more sensitive issues because of this.”

Matilde’s work on human trafficking has been widely exhibited as part the UNODC - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) campaigns during "World Day against Trafficking in Persons.” The exhibition included stories of victims to familiarize people with the issue of trafficking and the fact that it is close to them.

Her series Faces Behind Atrocity is an award-winning series which documents through portraiture the experience of surviving human trafficking, as well as the journey to healing and recovery.  The series, pulls into the light the stories of seven such girls who were freed from bondage. They were rescued from the horrors of the trafficking world and are in various stages of the healing process. Masked to protect their identities, the survivors allowed her to capture a visual representation of their resilience, beauty, and strength, while also providing a written account of how they were trafficked and the atrocities they faced. This project aims to advocate for and alongside survivors, amplifying their voices, while provoking discussions on human trafficking.

Matilde’s journey as a humanitarian photographer began in 2014 after a trip to Namibia, where she volunteered to photograph a children’s soup kitchen called Home of Good Hope. It was in a community where hundreds of children were orphaned due to the AIDS/HIV epidemic. The time she spent documenting this organization and the children was pivotal for her – “it allowed me to see the power of photography as an instrument for social change.” 

She has received numerous awards for her work, including the 2018 and 2017 Lucie Foundation International Photography Award in the Social Cause category. Her fine art prints are part of numerous private and corporate collections, including the African Union, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the International Organization for Migration (UN Migration). 

Currently exhibiting in the Arts to End Slavery Exhibition in Nairobi, Kenya. Arts to End Slavery (A2ES) is an awareness raising art project that aims to bring attention to human trafficking in Kenya. It was developed and launched in 2015 by a Nairobi based NGO, Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART). 

Any future projects you can share with us?
Currently, I’m in Haiti on assignment for Limb Kind Foundation, together with Capture Humanity journalist, Mim Paquin and filmmaker, Roberto Herrera. We are working with Limb Kind founder Robert Schulman, as part of an eight-person team, which is comprised of amputee survivors and mentors, prosthesis technicians, and medical professionals – all collaborating to make the lives of children who lost a limb better. Capture Humanity will be documenting the impact that limb loss has had on some of the children of Haiti, from the limited access Haitian children have, to the personal independence and freedom that the prostheses offer. Another project sees Matilde partnering with New York-based organization Mentari, which mentors and empowers trafficking survivors to reintegrate into the community through a  culinary arts program. We’ve been working together to create a cookbook titled Taste of Freedom. The intention behind the cookbook is to create awareness about human trafficking by interweaving success stories. 


To view more of Matilde Simas’ work, visit MatildeSimas.com.
For interviews, contact Mattie@mattiesstudio.com.