Taking photographs, telling and changing. Participants of the NatGeo’s project showed Ukraine the photographs of life of IDPs.

Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Severodonetsk, Slaviansk, Lviv and Kyiv. The exhibition of photos of young IDPs, which travelled around the cities of Ukraine last year and the present year is over.  The project of the photo camp of the National Geographic-Ukraine for young and talented photo-artists reached its completion; the project was implemented under support of the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, and the Institute of Regional Media and Information, IRMI.

To remind you: in summer 20 young IDPs had a one week training by professionals of the National Geographic and Ukrainian photographers. They learned how to tell people’s stories correctly and at the same time emotionally through the language of photos. The purpose of the project was not only to teach the young people the skills, but also through photos to show the society everyday life of people, whose reality was ruined by the war.

Young IDPs, who know about problems of the displaced people, participated in the project. The photographers could find the common language with their characters, help them open up and tell their stories. There were many meetings with the IDPs who live in Kharkiv region. And there were thousands of photos. In most of pictures there were local residents, adults and children. The photographs depicted their feelings, problems and happy moments. Photo-cameras were in hands of not indifferent people, who lived through the stories together with the narrators.

Alina Polianska, a PhotoCamp participant:

– We were taught not just to make “correct” shots – we learned to see. Light and shade, color contrast, harmony of objects in a shot are the details, which are also in the “blind area”. The trainers made us think also about another aspect of the question – respect to a person.  The most important thing for a photographer is to find an approach to an interlocutor and not scare him/her away by clicking the shutter from the very first minutes of the meetings.  It is important to spend some time with a character of a future story, immerse into the atmosphere, in which he/she exists every day. This is the only way to honestly depict his/her character, mode of life and feeling. All this has special meaning, when one speaks about the IDPs, people, who lived through extensive negative experience. In this situation the main principle for a photographer is: “Do not harm!”

Lidia Ivanova, a PhotoCamp participant:

– This project undoubtedly inspired new achievements. I became braver, started more actively to participate in contests, show my photos.  Maybe this sounds like pathos, but I even decided to change my occupation and left the job, which was not satisfying for me. Generally speaking, my participation in the project helped me to understand and reinterpret many things.

Olena Shunkina, a PhotoCamp participant

– I learned to really see the shot. I realized how with a photo I can raise urgent hot topics, attract attention to them. After the Camp I continued photographing the IDPs. I even received awards for my photos at the All Ukraine Photography Contest. And I have an award from UNDP as well. Now I am taking photos of success stories of the IDPs in my hometown of Kryvyi Rig. At the end of January it is planned to open an exhibition of photographs. The PhotoCamp was the starting point, the first step in the work I am occupied with now. It was fabulous experience, which I will never forget.

Anastasiia Turpetko, a PhotoCamp Participant

– I understood many things. How important it is the role of photographs in media. That the world needs photos, it is never too many of them, on the contrary: it is always not enough of photos. That documentary photography can and should be good-looking. Anyone can take pictures, and I also can do this, and I also can take not bad photos. Now I know that there is difference between your view of the world and the photos you manage to take.  It costs certain efforts to depict the situation the way you see it. In general a person feels a need to be taken a picture of, and look at himself/herself and the family members in a photo.
I realized that I want to be in journalism – tell people stories and photo-stories as well. Literally two month after the PhotoCamp I found a new job at an on-line edition, the key audience of which are people from Donbas: both, those who stayed at the occupied territory, and those, who became IDPs. My colleagues and I tell stories about people and for people. I try to do reporting from various locations, for the people at the occupied territories to know, what is going on in Kyiv. My participation at the PhotoCamp helped me to become a more confident person.

Alisa Stoianova, a PhotoCamp participant

– The idea of the PhotoCamp that the IDPs tell stories of other IDPs and their everyday life with the help of documentary shots is wonderful! Jon Brack, Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Matt Moyer, who shoot for the National Geographic, came to do the workshops for us, the photographers-beginners.  The PhotoCamp, of course, helped me to improve my photo-and communication skills (not everybody and not immediately is ready to let you inside his/her life, for you to take photos, which will be afterwards presented in different cities of Ukraine). At the same time this is extremely interesting, when a photo-editor of National Geographic from Washington Whitney Johnson comments on your photos and gives you suggestions of how to improve your shot.
Though that that my photos are better now is not the most important thing. It is more improtant that thanks to the PhotoCamp it was me, who became better. After I learned a great number of stories of being displaced from my colleagues at the Camp and the people we photographed, after I many times repeated my own story, I felt much better. I met wonderful people. They have to overcome difficulties related to the war, occupation and forced change of a place to live. They have to be strong. I, too, became stronger. Life goes on.

For a year the exhibition, which consisted of 50 photos of amateur photographers was hosted in different cities of Ukraine. The exhibition was visited by school students, photographers, journalists, university students, officials and university professors. It was seen by the people of big cities and small towns, by youth and elderly people. Among the visitors there were no indifferent.

Here are some opinions of the visitors.

‘It is very interesting to see stories similar to your own one. It is great that there are people capable to please you by what you see and feel. Thanks to exhibitions like this one, there is a hope that people will remain people, will not stop believing in themselves, in people and the future. Thank you, guys.’ V.V.Lotishyn, Dnipropetrovsk

‘It is wonderful, very touching! It is so necessary now to see other people, the people extorted from the life they were used to, their problems, grieves and hopes. Everything will be fine. Ukraine and Ukrainians will manage to overcome difficulties and hardships together in unity and mutual understanding.’ K.V.Boikova, Severodonetsk

‘There are problems, about which it is difficult to speak. The photographers uncover hearts, touch the most painful, make us sympathize. Every photo is like a jigsaw puzzle adds to the picture of perception of the war and the IDPs. Thank you for the opportunity to become a part of this kind of Ukraine. Hope that thanks to the exhibition, the attitude to the IDPs will be changed.  And most importantly, life is not over, while there are those, who speak about this.’ Sofia, Lviv

Life is not over, while there are those, who speak about sore subjects. And somebody is capable of doing this in an expressive language of photography. We wish the participants of the PhotoCamp to be always expressive in what they do.


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