A Photographer met a Professor of Cancer Biology

Interdisciplinary conversations between artists and academics

Photographer Ellie Kurttz created this piece in response to her conversation with Fran Balkwill

This is how she got there...

Ellie Kurttz
Professor Fran Balkwill

Brazilian-born, London-based photographer Ellie Kurttz graduated with distinction from Central St Martin’s School of Art and Design in Art Photography in 2002.

Since then Ellie has specialised in performing arts photography and has worked with leading British theatre including The National Theatre, Young Vic, The Almeida Theatre, The Birmingham REP Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). 

As a former ballerina, Ellie has a strong understanding of movement and this is visible in her stage photography. 

Ellie was the Royal Shakespeare Company Artist in Residence from 2008-2009. In 2011, The Royal Mail launched a series of 10 stamps commemorating The RSC’s 50th anniversary. 4 of the 10 stamps feature Ellie’s images.

Ellie has participated in more than 40 exhibitions, including Shooting Shakespeare produced by the V&A and Globe to Globe at the Shakespeare’s Globe. 

2014 saw the opening of Ellie’s first solo exhibition Shakespeare in Brazil. Launched at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil (CCBB), Shakespeare toured Brazil for 5 week. Ellie‘s book Shakespeare Photographs was published the same year. 

In 2015, she became an Ambassador of Spectaculu, a unique arts education school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ellie is delighted to be associated with a social enterprise that supports young marginalised people to reach their artistic potential.

In 2016 Ellie’s exhibition Shakespeare opened at the Brazilian British Centre in Sao Paulo as the official opening of Shakespeare Lives celebrations.

Ellie works as a freelance photographer and educator, creating art projects and workshops using photography as the main medium.

Professor Frances Balkwill OBE FMedSci

Frances Balkwill is Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute. She is especially interested in translating knowledge of cancer biology into new biological treatments for cancer and has published 260+ scientific papers and reviews during her career. Much of her work focuses on the tumour microenvironment of ovarian cancer. Having recently published a multi-level profile of the human ovarian cancer microenvironment, her lab has developed a platform of new mouse models as well as human multi-cellular tissue culture models. They are now using these to research biological therapies that may prevent relapse and increase ovarian cancer patient survival.  

Fran is Director of the Centre of the Cell, a biomedical science centre for children, educational website and outreach project in East London. There have been more than 207,000 participants in Centre of the Cell activities since opening in September 2009. Together with illustrator Mic Rolph, Fran has also produced thirteen science books for children on cell and molecular biology with titles such as Enjoy Your Cells, The Egg and Sperm Race and You, Me and HIV. These books have been translated into at least twelve foreign languages with over half a million copies sold worldwide.

Fran serves on CRUK and ERC grant committees. She is a Trustee of the charity Blood Cancer UK.




'Follies Backstage' by Ellie Kurttz
'Penta-Cultures', Centre of the Cell
ON 16 September 2020, Ellie and Fran HELD THEIR CONVERSATION
ON 16 September 2020, Ellie and Fran HELD THEIR CONVERSATION

on the multifaceted richness of images

on capturing actors in the moment of transition to character

You feel she's really getting into character - she's already someone else! You've captured that moment where they really aren't themselves anymore...

Professor Fran Balkwill

on interconnectedness in working with live performance

You must take thousands of photographs per show - how many move you? How do you find the 'money shot'?

Professor Fran Balkwill

the power of images connects us