Taking photographs could empower marginalised communities, PhD research found

A lecturer from the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology will be awarded a William and Ntihila Kupe prize at the Wits humanities prize-giving award ceremony for postgraduate research excellence on Wednesday, April 25.

The prize will be awarded to Dr Hugh Ellis for authoring the best PhD thesis at Wits University’s Department of Media Studies.

Ellis’ thesis ‘Owning the Image: Photography as a Means of Empowerment in Contemporary Namibia’ analysed photography within four community-based organisations where he observed how learning to take pictures could empower marginalised Namibians, particularly women and young people.

“The PhD thesis was the result of the coming together of two of my interests,” Ellis told Wits Vuvuzela. “The one was in community radical media and as a media lecturer, I was interested in the educational process.”

Sekai-Emilia Hartz, a colleague and former student of Ellis’ said the thesis was a great learning experience for Ellis and the communities he worked in, and his work was produced with “strength, grace and professionalism”.

“Hugh’s work has given a push to small communities to begin writing, taking stock, finding evidence and containing it in media that is more meaningful, accessible and profound,” Hartz said.

Ellis said being nominated for the award was a humbling experience that earned his work recognition and interest in the Namibian press, not only for him but for all the participants in his study.

“I was thrilled! It actually came as a complete surprise when I received the email from the Wits faculty officer,” Ellis said.

Another former student, Jethro Kwenani, said Ellis’ academic journey as a PhD student was a very passionate and determined journey because he is a well-informed individual who is enthusiastic about advancing education. Dr Ellis “has a very unique and effective way of getting the best out of students”, said Kwenani.

Ellis said there was more work for him ahead. “I would like to be a more research-focused academic, going forward. I would still like to do more research into photojournalism in Namibia, and I’m keen to work with colleagues in exploring the area of indigenous knowledge systems.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Hugh Ellis’ PhD thesis was deemed best in Department of Media Studies. Photo: Provided