VII mentor programme

25 March 2014

Industry news

VII has announced the next roster of photographers to join its lauded VII Mentor Program, an education initiative launched in 2008 to provide professional development for emerging photographers whom VII consider to be amongst the brightest new talents in the industry. The photographers, who were chosen from 150 applicants, will each be mentored by a VII photographer for a period of two years, to build and develop necessary skills, expand his or her own professional practice, and help broaden their professional world, such as building relationships with editors, publishers and galleries.

They are:
  • Poulomi Basu (India) - to be mentored by Stefano DeLuigi
  • Maika Elan (Vietnam) - to be mentored by John Stanmeyer
  • Ali Arkady (Iraq) - to be mentored by Ed Kashi
  • Arthur Bondar (Ukraine) - to be mentored by Donald Weber
  • Cristobal Olivares (Chile) - to be mentored by Christopher Morris
Poulomi and Maika will join the program immediately; Ali, Arthur and Cristobal will join June 1.

The new photographers will eventually replace those currently in the Mentor Program, who include Gazi Nafis Ahmed (Bangladesh), Sim Chi Yin (China), Laura El-Tantawy (Egypt), Jost Franko (Slovenia) and Amanda Rivkin (USA).
The VII Mentor Program has been a critical success and, over the coming months, the agency will be seeking partnerships with other organizations to increase the opportunities it can offer to the mentored photographers. "We hope to develop production grants, training and further skill development initiatives for them," says VII's Gary Knight. 

"The VII Mentor Program is unique in that it offers an opportunity for photographers from all over the world - especially those from a majority of the world where photographic opportunities are much harder to find - to have access to expertise, experience and a platform to distribute their work worldwide with one of the most prestigious photo agencies in the world today," says VII photographer Ed Kashi.

Anastasia Taylor-Lind, who joined the Mentor Program in 2009 and is now a full member of VII, says: "When I joined the Mentor Program in 2009 I was working part-time as a chiropractor's receptionist to fund my documentary projects. I knew how to make pictures then, but not how to be a photographer. My mentor Ron Haviv taught me how to find my photographic voice and by the time I left two years later I was a fully fledged full-time photojournalist."

Gary Knight adds: "The VII Mentor Program is one of the most important initiatives we have and one the members seem to care about the most. The idea is as old as the agency and, like the agency when it started, it was an ad hoc process. Individual photographers mentored young photographers they met in the field, as we had been mentored when we were younger. That involved helping them think through story ideas, edit, and then introducing them to a wider network. There was very little structure and some of the VII photographers were frankly more diligent than others. But as the Program evolves it becomes more structured and we are now able to provide better opportunities for our younger colleagues.

"We have over 100 applications every year, representing a wide demographic, and we are thrilled that the program becomes more diverse, reflecting the emergence of gifted photographers from communities that have been underr epresented in photography, including in our agency. We recognize the importance of creating opportunities for a diverse community of storytellers and we encourage applicants from under represented communities to apply."

The addition of new photographers to the Mentor Program follows the recent launch of another education initiative - VII Student Summer Programs - tailored specifically for students and young photographers who wish to develop skills in visual storytelling. Through a partnership with Rustic Pathways - an established provider of innovative, international student travel programs for 30 years - VII photojournalists will guide small cohorts of students through immersive learning expeditions designed to challenge and inspire them as they explore the complexity of another country. The first expeditions will take place in June - Ed Kashi and Jessica Dimmock will lead one group to Costa Rica, while Gary Knight and Anastasia Taylor-Lind will guide students through Cambodia. To read more about the summer programs, click here:

Poulomi was born in Calcutta, India and majored in sociology before completing her masters in photojournalism and documentary photography at the London College of Communication, graduating with distinction. Her award-winning work focuses on under-reported contemporary issues where gender and the formation of identity are often defining characteristics.

Poulomi's work has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, FT Weekend Magazine, Monocle, Grazia France, Marie Claire Italy, Le Monde, Courrier International, among others. She has undertaken assignments for UNESCO, Save the Children, Water Aid and Crisis Action.

In 2012 she was awarded the Magnum Foundation Human Rights Scholarship. Poulomi been recognized by Reporters Without Borders, Magenta Flash Forward, Foto Visura, Dali Photo Festival, Asian Women Photographers Showcase, Foto 8 and the Ian Parry Award. Her work has been widely exhibited around the world. 

She is currently based in New Delhi, India.


After studying sociology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, Maika took up photography in 2006, beginning her professional career covering assignments for editorial clients and fashion firms in Vietnam. In 2010 Maika completed her first documentary project, The Pink Choice, which focuses on the personal lives and intimacy of gay couples in Vietnam.

Maika's work has been published in print and online throughout the world. The Pink Choice was awarded 1st Prize for Stories, Contemporary Issues in the 2013 World Press Photo contest. The body of work also won 1st Prize for a documentary story in the 2013 Pride Photo Award 2013. Maika was a participant in the 2013 Joop Swart Masterclass. Her first solo exhibition was hosted at the Goethe Institut in Hanoi in 2012.

She is currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam


Ali Arkardy is a photographer and photojournalist from Khanaqin, located in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq near the Iranian border. A graduate of the Fine Arts Institution in Khanaqin, Ali has been working as a photographer since 2006 and is currently focusing on photo stories about Iraqis injured and disabled during war.

Ali's photographs have been published in international and Iraqi media and shown in more than a dozen exhibits in Iraq, Dubai, Georgia, and Germany. Ali has completed photography and videography assignments for the United Nations, UNHCR, Mercy Corps, IREX, and International Relief Development (IRD). In 2011, he was the bronze medial recipient at the Annual Festival in Hamburg, sponsored by the Arab Union of Photographers in Europe.

Ali is a photography and assistant media training instructor at Metrography's Training Centre in Sulaumanyah, Iraq, as well as a member of the Federation of Iraq Photographers. He has been chosen to take part in the 2014 Noor-Nikon Masterclasss. He lives with his wife and daughter.

He is currently based in Khanaqin, Iraq.


Arthur Bondar was born in Krivoy Rog, Ukraine and later studied at the National Linguistic University. In 2000 he moved to Kiev and earned his Bachelor's degree in English philology. He held nearly 20 different jobs before he found his way to photography, which he studied at New York University.

Arthur is now a freelancer and shoots his own documentary projects. He has participated in the Eddie Adams Workshop and NOOR-Nikon Masterclass. Arthur has received numerous awards including the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, The Documentary Project Fund, National Geographic Grant, and Best Photographer of the Year in Ukraine. His work has been exhibited in the U.S., Canada, England, Germany, France, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.

He is currently based in Moscow, Russia.


Cristóbal Olivares was born in 1988 in Santiago, Chile, where he later studied photography. As a documentary photographer, his interests lie in contemporary social affairs, with a particular focus in Latin America.

In 2013 Cristobal won First Place, News Stories in Chile's Salón Nacional de Fotografia de Prensa, and received honorable mentions in the FotoVisura Grant, the Photographic Museum of Humanity's New Generation Prize, and the Querétaro Photofest, in Mexico. In 2013 he also published his first book "-42º" with Ediciones La Visita. Prior to that, he completed an artist residence with François Hebel as part of the Valparaiso International Festival of Photography and he participated in the Trasatlántica PhotoEspaña, Costa Rica.

He is currently based in Santiago, Chile.

For more information visit:

Image: Maika Elan/VII Mentor Program