Empowering Ukrainian Scholars Through Photojournalism Education

Inspiring Voices Amidst Ukraine’s Struggle for Justice

Date: June 10, 2023

Renowned photojournalist Vudi Xhymshiti empowers Ukrainian scholars through his groundbreaking education program, emphasising metadata mastery and ethical principles. Inspiring voices amidst Ukraine’s struggle for justice.

Renowned Kosovar-British photojournalist and educator, Vudi Xhymshiti, embarks on the third week of his journey, dedicated to educating fifteen Ukrainian scholars who have been awarded scholarships in his groundbreaking photojournalism educational program. Over the course of this Thursday and Friday, the scholars engaged in enlightening discussions on the paramount importance of mastering metadata and adhering to the ethical principles of photojournalism.

Following an extensive year of reporting in Ukraine throughout 2022, Xhymshiti recognized the dire need to extend support to the Ukrainian people. Moved by the plight of voiceless men, women, and children, who have suffered the harrowing atrocities inflicted by the Russian military aggression since the full-scale invasion launched by Russian President Putin on February 24, 2022, Xhymshiti made it his mission to share his wealth of knowledge in photojournalism. By doing so, he aimed to equip the scholars with the necessary skills to become the unwavering voice of Ukraine.

In today’s digital age, photojournalists face a myriad of challenges when it comes to showcasing and monetizing their work. One aspect often overlooked, yet crucial, is the meticulous handling of metadata and captioning. This vital information not only assists photographers in organising their collections but also plays a pivotal role in capturing the attention of editors and potential clients. 

During an exclusive conversation with Photojournalism HUB in London, Vudi Xhymshiti expressed his unwavering dedication to promoting high-quality journalism worldwide. He shared insights into his education programs, which are specifically designed to elevate the skills of emerging professionals and students from diverse backgrounds. Through the provision of scholarships and access to valuable resources, Xhymshiti aims to empower individuals, enabling them to become leaders in their respective fields and share their unique perspectives with the global audience.

In discussing his educational initiatives, Xhymshiti emphasised his role in guiding fellow professionals away from ignorance. Recognizing that traditional forms of education can often perpetuate narrow viewpoints, he is committed to offering programs that foster critical thinking, creativity, and diverse thought. His ultimate vision is to contribute to the advancement of journalism and the democratisation of public narrative, inspiring the next generation of journalists to strive for excellence and create a better world through their impactful work.

Furthermore, Xhymshiti’s conversation highlighted the paramount importance of mastering metadata in the field of photojournalism. With his expertise and experience as an esteemed instructor, he shed light on the profound influence that metadata mastery can have on the career prospects of aspiring photojournalists. By stressing the significance of this aspect, Xhymshiti aims to equip his students with the necessary skills to thrive in their professional journeys.

Xhymshiti, with his unrivalled expertise, highlights the indispensable connection between accurate metadata and professional success. He asserts, “Without proper metadata, no news editor, whether in London, New York, Paris, or elsewhere, will consider your photographs. The absence of this crucial information hampers editors’ ability to comprehend the contextual significance of an image.

According to Xhymshiti, countless talented photographers miss out on lucrative assignments simply because they neglect to master the art of metadata and captioning. He explains, “Editors are unwilling to take the risk of hiring someone who lacks these essential skills. The absence of metadata and captions can lead to confusion and disrupt the seamless progress of a project. Editors would rather replace you with someone who understands the significance of these vital details.

Furthermore, Xhymshiti unveils a startling truth about the scarcity of formal education concerning metadata in photography programs. He notes, “Unfortunately, universities rarely impart these critical skills to aspiring photographers. Furthermore, some professional photographers who offer courses intentionally withhold this information due to their own self-doubts and fears of competition.

Xhymshiti’s comprehensive course aims to bridge this knowledge gap and equip students with the indispensable skills required to excel in the industry. He emphasises the importance of regularly practising metadata mastery and captioning, asserting that these tasks should become as routine as brushing one’s teeth in the morning. By instilling these practices early on, students can confidently collaborate with editors and significantly increase their chances of securing coveted assignments.

One of the intriguing topics raised during the course revolves around the use of watermarks on photographs. Xhymshiti clarifies that watermarks play a vital role in protecting copyrighted work when selling images on certain platforms. However, he advises against using watermarks on websites or portfolios intended to attract potential clients. By allowing clients to view high-quality, unmarked images, photographers heighten their chances of securing paid work.

To illustrate his points effectively, Xhymshiti showcases his own websites, featuring both watermarked and unmarked images. He emphasises the importance of presenting pristine, high-quality images to potential clients, enabling them to accurately assess a photographer’s skills and capabilities.

Throughout the course, students actively engage in discussions, sharing their personal experiences and challenges. Xhymshiti fosters an environment of open dialogue, encouraging the exchange of ideas and the cultivation of growth.

By shedding light on the profound significance of metadata mastery and ethical considerations in photojournalism, this exclusive course offers aspiring photojournalists invaluable knowledge. It equips them with the skills necessary to navigate the fiercely competitive industry, ensuring they are prepared to meet the demands of professional assignments. Xhymshiti’s unwavering dedication to empowering his students and safeguarding them from exploitation shines through, making this course an extraordinary and priceless opportunity within the realm of photography education.

Join us on June 21, 2023, for an upcoming online edition of Photojournalism Nights, where we are thrilled to have Vudi Xhymishiti as our guest speaker. Discover the incredible work of this renowned photojournalist and educator by joining us via our ticketing system. HERE.

Photojournalism Hub in conversation with Ed Ram and Wangui Kimari

Photojournalism Hub Cinzia D’Ambrosi and Miriam Sheikh is honoured for the opportunity to interview Ed Ram and Wangui Kimari on their collaboration that has led to As We Lose our Fear, a photography exhibition presented at the Mathare Social Justice Centre in Kenya. The exhibition exposes police violence and extrajudicial killings in Kenya by presenting a series of photographs of victims holding a paper with the name of their loved ones killed by the police.

During the interview, we discuss the social background that has led to the collaborative project, police killings in Kenya and the grassroot movement and activism that Mathare Social Justice Centre has helped to form, and create empowering and important positive actions and changes.

From above Miriam Sheikh, Cinzia D’Ambrosi, Ed Ram and Wangui Kimari.

To learn more and/or to contact Ed and Wangui :

Ed Ram, journalist and documentary photographer, www.edram.org, @edr4m

Wangui Kimari, participatory action research coordinator, Mathare Social Justice Centre

More on the Exhibition:
As we lose our Fear
As We Lose Our Fear: Photography exhibition on police brutality

Photo above: copyright Ed Ram

Interview with Clare Thomas, Photojournalism Nights guest speaker

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CT_Iraq_04JULY17_8108-1024x684.jpg
©Claire Thomas – Injured and sick civilians are treated at a makeshift field clinic set up inside an abandoned store on the edge of Mosul’s Old City as the fighting continues to liberate the remaining ISIS-held territory, on July 4, 2017.

Claire Thomas is a photographer and photojournalist from Wales, UK, currently based between London and New York. Her photojournalism work focuses on issues relating to global political and military conflicts, human rights, and humanitarian and environmental crises. During her extraordinary career, Claire has produced compelling and timely images and has been extensively covering frontlines battles in ISIS in Iraq.

Q. How did you end up going to Iraq?

In December 2016, I decided to travel to Iraq independently with the goal of focusing on stories related to the military offensive to liberate the city of Mosul and the humanitarian crisis of people displaced by ISIS. Before that, I was based in Greece covering the refugee crisis where I met Kurdish and Iraqi families who had been displaced by ISIS. Hearing their stories, I wanted to better understand the horror that was driving people to flee their homes and risk their lives trying to reach the safety of European shores. As there was a lot of media attention on the war against ISIS in Mosul at the time, I decided to head to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and an entry point to Mosul.

Q. How long were you there for in total? Will you go back? 

My first visit to Iraq was for just 2 weeks, but I returned a few weeks later and ended up living in northern Iraq for two and a half years. I’ve been back for a few short trips since I left in June last year, and I hope to return later this year or next year. Erbil was my home for a long time, and I became very fond of the place and the people, so I think I’ll always go back whenever the opportunity arises. There’s certainly no shortage of stories to cover in the country, and I’m particularly interested to follow the progress of rebuilding the city of Mosul, which was heavily bombed during the battle against ISIS.

Q. This is very traumatic work, what do you do to decompress after a trip like this? How do you look after your mental health while working? 

I was lucky to have a great support network in Iraq, among other photographers and journalists, the medics I embedded with in Mosul, and also local friends and fixers. My way of decompressing is simply to talk about the situation, which helps me process my own thoughts and feelings, and I was glad that I had a lot of people I could talk to in Iraq.

I think it’s important to be aware of the emotional impact of doing this kind of work, and also to keep in mind that, as outsiders, it’s our choice to be there and we’re extremely lucky to be able to leave the war zone and go back to the safety of our homes at any time.

Of course, being confronted by violence and death is challenging and disturbing, and even more so is seeing people suffering the terror, pain and loss of war. The images that stick in my mind are of mothers crying over the bodies of their children, of soldiers wailing uncontrollably over a fallen comrade, of proud fathers broken by the loss of their loved ones, and the tearless look of shock on the faces of traumatised children. However, I try to focus my thoughts and energy on the incredible strength and resilience of the survivors and the people who helped them survive.

Q. I’m new to photojournalism – self teaching at the moment. How did you get started and did you go through formal means? And how did you get to work in Iraq? Did you pitch to someone as an independent? Would be great to know how it all works. 

I’m also self-taught with no formal training in photojournalism. I studied Politics at University, and after I graduated I spent several years travelling and working overseas. During that time, I developed my interest and skills in photography, and eventually started doing some freelance photography work for my local newspaper in Wales. After a few assignments in Wales I travelled to Palestine where I began producing photo essays about life in the occupied West Bank, which I pitched to several mainstream media outlets.

As a freelancer, I really appreciate having the flexibility and freedom to choose which countries I work in and which stories I cover. Of course, that flexibility comes with the necessity for extreme self-motivation, self-discipline and organisation, as well as the financial burden of paying our own expenses in the hope of selling the work afterwards.

My decision to go to Iraq was one I made independently – I wasn’t sent there by any media outlet. Once I arrived in Erbil, I spoke with a lot of other journalists and fixers to better understand the context and get an idea of stories I could cover that weren’t as widely covered as the military operation in Mosul. In the beginning, I captured the content needed for the story I wanted to cover – photos and interviews – and then sent a pitch with a small sample of images to media outlets. Once editors got to know me and my work, I started to get more commissioned assignments, often working alongside a writer.

It took me a long time to understand how the industry works for freelancers. For me, the most difficult part about being a freelance photojournalist is not the photography or journalism work itself but finding ways to get the attention of editors and my work published. I’m still learning myself, and the best advice I can give is to be persistent and determined, and get to know the publications you want to contribute to.

Clare Thomas

In Conversation with Jillian Edelstein, Roland Ramanan and Valentina Schivardi

The third Photojournalism Nights event guests speakers Jillian Edelstein, Roland RamananValentina Schivardi answer questions posed from the audience on their work and practice. Their answer lead us into their journey of resilience and commitment in voicing stories of prejudice, injustice and poverty.

Roland Ramanan

©Roland Ramanan

From Sabrina Merolla : Well, you say you are not a photojournalist, but you are showing a stunning example of long-form traditional documentary photography. And the method you described, plus the interviews, make me think of serious socio-anthropological research perspectives. Out of curiosity: what do you teach and what kind of formation do you have?
I would certainly say that I am working within the long form documentary tradition with people like Eugene Richards being a big influence. Richards was a social worker and I am a special needs teacher. I started as a primary school teacher and now I work with a local authority advisory service. I think this gives me a certain training to be able to work with people, empathise and present my ideas.

Really powerful stories and you have shown them all as whole human beings without judgement. You obviously gained their trust, how did you establish consent?

I establish consent by showing them honesty and trying to be clear about what I am doing. That was not always easy and I had set backs. A piece about my work in the local newspaper (which I thought was written sensitively) damaged my relationship with some individuals for a long time. I have more or less given up on trying to get formal written consent, I think it establishes more barriers than it removes. I try to show the work as its developing as much as I can practically can. At the start of the project I didn’t really know what my aims were, now I can be much clearer with people what I’m trying to do and that really helps to build trust. That, and just being there; relentlessly!

Roland, how do you feel about the work now and how do you see the work evolving or is it now finished.

Well, its not finished in terms of becoming a book. I have this on good advice from my mentor and others I trust so I need to keep working and thinking about different angles. Sometimes, nothing happens in the work and I get very down and frustrated but it just takes one good picture to lift my spirits. Just being there and hanging out for hours is something I find gets harder but its what I need to do. You need to find new angles to generate different situations. So at the moment , that means going to the foodbank/church and joining there – once it starts up again. That may lead to other things like photographing a baptism which would be amazing – tantalisingly now just out of reach. But I’m in no particular hurry.

Very interesting work but there are some ethical issues for me when photographing vulnerable people. Do you make people aware of the fact the photos are being made public? Do you get model release forms from people?

I did worry a lot, previously about model release but I don’t need it for a documentary/art project. It is non-commercial use. In the end, you simply have to demonstrate your own integrity and question your own motives over and over again. No model release is a substitute for that.

Roland Ramanan http://rolandramanan.com/

Roland Ramanan’s compelling image of Nina from his powerful ‘Gillett Square’ series is featured among other great photographers in Paul Sng’s This Separated Isle photobook, which is currently being crowdfunded on- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/invisiblebritain/this-separated-isle If you can, please support this photobook of stories and portraits exploring concepts of identity in modern Britain.


©Jillian Edelstein

How did you protect yourself from the trauma of these stories?

I think it was hard for people to see people (mainly men) who had performed unspeakable acts and atrocities, walk free …but the concept of forgiveness espoused by Tutu, Mandela allowed that to happen. It is to be commended and admired. It was a powerful ‘tool’ to call upon, to draw out, to involve many victims of human rights abuse, torture and conflict. The fact that it happened was remarkable. It helped. It may not have healed but it was powerful in the transition process. I don’t think it ever hoped to turn things around overnight. The compromise is that it is human fragility, survival , emotion at stake ; sadly we don’t seem to learn from history.The after effects of Apartheid and it’s ugly legacy will be felt for decades to come.I was lucky enough to be able to ‘come and go’ as I had my work, my family life in the UK, so being able to leave it, feel a certain distance from it and then later revisit the horror of it intermittently was an enormous saving attribute. 


©Valentina Schivardi

Excellent thanks! How long did you document their ceremonies and are you still in touch with the community?
The first ceremony was back in 2009. Yes, we are still in touch – I’m still working on this project.

Just wondered why the men in this community were not featured so much in the photos?

I guess because women are more photogenic. I’m just kidding. Actually, there were more men than women featured in the editing I showed.

Is the project ongoing? what’s next?

Yes, it’s an ongoing project. I’d love to make a book next.

When you were working on the project were you thinking about making photographs for them at the same time as making pictures for yourself? Did you take different approach for these?

This is a very interesting question for me. Yes, when I’m working on this project I think about both taking pictures for them as well as for myself, which can be tricky. Luckily, it’s been clear in my head since the beginning: I was able to start this project because I was hired to take photos for them. This allowed me to find a point of entry to their community. When possible, I work with an assistant, to make sure that he/she can cover the event for them, so that I can focus on my own project.

Given that the subjects seemed very keen to pose, did you capture moments where subjects had their guards down?

Oh yes. This is a question I had in my head since the beginning. What makes a photograph a more authentic and honest representation of someone? On one hand, it’s fascinating to see how my subject is very conscious of the camera. There’s something very strong about the way they always seem to know exactly how to pose. On the other hand, I’m also interested in showing how contradictory and much more complex we can be, by trying to capture my subjects off guard.

Oh yes. This is a question I had in my head since the beginning. What makes a photograph a more authentic and honest representation of someone? On one hand, it’s fascinating to see how my subject is very conscious of the camera. There’s something very strong about the way they always seem to know exactly how to pose. On the other hand, I’m also interested in showing how contradictory and much more complex we can be, by trying to capture my subjects off guard.

Valentina Schivardi

An interview with Pete Boyd, guest photographer at the Photojournalism Nights

Pete Boyd  is sharing his thoughts, aims and working methodologies with Cinzia D’Ambrosi of the Photojournalism Hub on his  powerful work that will be presenting tomorrow at the second edition of the Photojournalism Night  at the Elephant West gallery. Pete’s work documents British life, its communities, social groups and subcultures, their codes of behaviour and symbols of belonging.

The event will also have the presentation of  selected photojournalists Quetzal MaucciSukhy HullaitClaudia Leisinger, keynotes from Emma Perfect (global heard of Inclusion and Diversity at Soho House), photos donated by guest photographers  printed with the support of Genesis Imaging and the media support of Photo Archive News. To learn more: https://elephantwest.art/event/photojournalism-nights/

Q: Can you tell us your journey to photography, and what motivates you
to be a photographer?
My Dad was an enthusiastic amateur photographer and I was given a camera at an early age. Since then I’ve always taken photographs. As a teenage trainspotter I would photograph the railwayana disappearing through modernisation and heavy industrial manufacturing being replaced by service industry. Photographs helped me to preserve the things that fascinated me. My Dad and I would develop those photos at home in a makeshift darkroom.
I’ve always been a collector and an organiser of facts. After years of music, poetry and other writing, I finally got around to taking photography seriously and since then I’ve felt compelled to make candid
photographs of people in public, close enough to be visceral. I haven’t formally studied photography but instead, having pursued it on my own through books, exhibitions and Wikipedia, I’ve become fascinated by its history and by the work of others.
I’m excited by groups of people in my own society whose language and customs are unknown to me. I’m drawn to capture their dynamism, the interpersonal interactions, the emotions, and private intimacies
expressed in public. I enjoy opportunities to be in a realm where not everything is understood.

I was an outsider as a child, exiled from friendship groups, and that still hangs heavy in me. That has made me anxious of groups of people in adulthood, and yet drawn to explore them. A camera gives me enough of a crutch that I can be amongst groups of strangers unselfconsciously, or is a passport they welcome me in by. I’m intrinsically a people watcher. We’re not supposed to look at other people, it’s sort of taboo to linger too long in public, which is a real shame. It’s invaluable to me to have photographs of people acting

Q: Your ‘It’s Not About Football’ and your people at night series will
be shown at Photojournalism Nights at Elephant West gallery on the 27th
November. How do you see these projects connect to the themes of the
night: belonging, identity, Britishness and Brexit?

I photograph people coming together. In the different groups, we see how they display their difference, and how that gives them a sense of belonging.

My photographs at night show a variety of cultures. For some, the space might be one where it’s safe to express their identity; for others, this is something they take for granted. By showing these different
situations together in one body of work, I hope the viewer can see universalities between people.

The nightlife photographs were made in Brighton between 2014 and 2018. They show how some of what people were doing in the two years leading up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2 years since — a time, we’re told, of increasing polarisation in society.

Q: What next for the nightlife project?
I will exhibit and publish a book of these photographs. Firstly, they will be exhibited outside on the streets of Brighton, where I feel they belong.

About you
My photography documents British life, its communities, social groups and subcultures, their codes of behaviour and symbols of belonging. I’m interested in struggles for status and identity. I look for private
intimacies expressed in public spaces. My work has so far touched on social class, youth culture, masculinity, gender, sexuality, and belonging. I make candid unposed photographs in public places, and
portraits. Based in Brighton, I am available for commissions.

Pete Boyd

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