True Stories: Independently producing a visual story – Behind the scenes with Ilvy Njiokiktjien

By Stichting Verhalende Journalistiek

How did photographer Ilvy Njiokiktjien make her long-term project Born Free a success? In 2012 Ilvy Njiokiktjien, together with journalist Elles van Gelder, won the first prize in the Digital Storytelling Contest at World Press Photo with their multimedia story “Afrikaner Blood”. This story about a command camp for ultra-right-wing youth in South Africa is part of a long-term project about the 'born frees'. Njiokiktjien continues to work on the project with the aim of showing how young people are doing in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid. The project, completed in 2019, resulted in an interactive long-read, various international publications, an exhibition in Museum Hilversum, a documentary by the VPRO and a self-published publication. In a conversation with photography and media consultant Evelien Kunst Njiokiktjien take a closer look at what it takes to independently create a long-term visually driven story and publish on multiple platforms. Njiokiktjien talks about how rule number one is to have a genuine interest in your story. How important it is to spend time with your subjects and gain their trust. But also about how experimenting and collaboration can enrich your storytelling. She furthermore talks about the importance of organizing yourself and expanding your network. The necessity to overcome your own shyness and introduce yourself, and your work, to editors and other people. As Njiokiktjien puts it: 'The main struggle is not the making of the project. The main struggle is that you have to sell it.’ A podcast worth listening to, if you have ambitions, and, if you are about to embark on your own long-term project. Credits Research, host and interview: Evelien Kunst Editing, mixing and sound design: Wederik de Backer Executive producers: Brecht van der Meulen and Laura Das Senior production: Evelien Kunst Music: Chad Crouch Audio excerpts: from the short documentary Afrikaner Blood (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFWEtdZ5TWA) by Elles van Gelder & Ilvy Njiokiktjien; from the short documentary Born Free (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP3jge_-TFM) by Ilvy Njiokiktjien and with thanks to the Nelson Mandela Foundation for the use of the Nelson Mandela quote. This True Stories online podcast was made for the Narrative Journalism Foundation which aims to support Dutch journalists who want to improve their skills in working in a narrative form (verhalendejournalistiek.nl/conferentie-2020). The Narrative Journalism Foundation receives support from the Democracy and Media Foundation, Pictoright, Lira Reproright, the University of Amsterdam and the Evens Foundation. For the Born Free project check www.bornfreegeneration.com.

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