Sam Derbyshire's photographic work has primarily accumulated by means of his long-term research in eastern Africa, where he has studied issues facing rural communities pursuing a wide range of livelihoods.
Born in London in 1989, he studied a BA in Egyptian Archaeology at University College London before pursuing his masters and later his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He is currently a Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology at St John’s College, Oxford.
His interest in the histories and livelihood practices of peoples making their way in eastern Africa's drylands, and the ways in which such populations endure and indeed thrive in the face of substantial ecological, economic and socio-political barriers, has led him to work under a variety of disciplinary banners. His research continues to comprise diverse theoretical and methodological influences, drawing together ideas and techniques from the fields of social anthropology, archaeology, history and photo journalism.
His exhibitions, articles and other publications have explored themes including globalisation, urbanisation, socio-cultural resilience, pastoralist responses to climate change, economic development and the visual and rhetorical representation of rural African societies in the popular press.
The focus of his most extensive research, and the foundation of his doctoral thesis, has been the 20th century history of the Turkana – a largely pastoralist people who occupy Kenya’s far north-west. Sam has been involved with communities in southern Turkana since 2012, and remains actively engaged in community life, exploring local issues, concerns and ambitions. His most recent fieldwork has been funded by the British Museum's Endangered Material Knowledge Programme, and has involved working with a dedicated local team to document the material culture and history of the asapan ceremony.