Making, financing and publishing stories with Ilvy Njiokiktjien

The podcast

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

by True Stories podcast online

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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.


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 by Elles van Gelder & Ilvy Njiokiktjien; from the short documentary Born Free by Ilvy Njiokiktjien and with thanks to the Nelson Mandela Foundation for the use of the Nelson Mandela quote. 

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

Biography Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Ilvy Njiokiktjien (1984) works as an independent photojournalist and multimedia maker from the Netherlands. After the School for Journalism in Utrecht, she started working as a photographer. First for Sp! Ts and ANP, later as a freelance photographer with many assignments in Africa. Her national fame increased when she was appointed Photographer of the Fatherland in 2013. Njiokiktjien has won several major photography awards, including two awards at World Press Photo. In 2014 she won the Silver Camera with a photo of the funeral of Nelson Mandela as the first woman ever.

In her work she focuses on contemporary issues and social topics, especially in Africa. Her work regularly appears in leading national and international titles such as The New York Times, NRC Handelsblad and Der Spiegel. She is a member of the prestigious photo agency VII Photo Agency and an ambassador for Canon.

For her latest project “Bron Free”, Ilvy followed young people born around the abolition of apartheid in South Africa to explore the dreams of this generation, now that everyone has equal opportunities on paper. In 2020 she will win many prizes with this project, including De Zilveren Camera Storytelling 2020 and De Tegel in the Online category. She was appointed ‘Meesterverteller‘ for this project by the Narrative Journalism Foundation.

Biography Evelien Kunst

Evelien Kunst is a photography and media consultant with over 20 years of experience in the photography world, marketing and education. She was director of NOOR, an internationally renowned photographers collective. Worked for The Red Dot Agency, a creative strategic communication agency. At World Press Photo, she has led capacity-building projects in Africa and Asia for many years as a project manager in the education department. She is currently working as a program maker for the Stichting Verhalende Journalistiek (Narrative Journalism Foundation), for which she is involved in organizing True Stories, an annual conference with and for journalists who work narrative. She also regularly gives guest lectures at the Danish School of Journalism and the Photo Academy.



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