In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. The conflict began in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea, and it has escalated into a full-scale war. Tens of thousands of casualties have occurred on both sides of the conflict, causing a humanitarian crisis not seen in Europe since World War II. The conflict remains unresolved.
Challenges of Documenting War
Capturing footage of the war in Ukraine is extremely difficult due to the hazardous and unpredictable nature of the conflict. Journalists face numerous obstacles and risks while attempting to cover the conflict, including violence, restrictions on access, and censorship by the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists.
These obstacles are exactly why the active war footage from Georgia-based artist Matvii Mosiahin (mmatvey) is so incredibly remarkable. Mosiahin’s portfolio documents first-hand accounts of the destruction and damage. His footage of the war in Ukraine is as stunning as it is heart-wrenching. See tanks, bombs, drone strikes, and destruction brought on by the war from an up close and personal perspective. The footage gives everyone a stark look into the realities of conflict and its toll on both the people and places involved. What’s even more remarkable is how he captures it.
Read on below to hear from Mosiahin about this footage, how he’s getting it, and how his contact is putting himself at risk to get this content.
Mosiahin has been a Pond5 contributor since 2014, after he got his start shooting video in 2011. “I was shooting breaking news, vocational news, and many others, also, I was shooting weddings. About nine years ago, I started filming footage for stock, and once I got my first income, I started to shoot more and more.”
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So he began as many contributors do, uploading footage of what he was into and what he was spending his time doing– traveling, animals, kids, and food, mainly. His favorites being “cats and traveling.” He still focuses on these subjects today.
Taking a look at his relatively small portfolio of 3,000 items, you can see just how much this Ukraine war video footage sticks out among his tropical waters, Georgian landscapes, cat portraits, and a bathing hedgehog. To be honest, it raised a few eyebrows here at Pond5, as it didn’t seem possible for a “regular person” to have such footage. Ukraine video footage of this quality, with bombs and tanks exploding “live” as the camera rolls, and up-close access to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy usually only comes from news outlets or governments, at far less quality.
An Opportunity to Help
When we reached out to ask him about this Ukraine video footage, as it seemed literally unbelievable, the explanation was that although he relocated to Georgia with his family when Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014, he still has many connections in Ukraine. Then in 2022, when Russia invaded, many of his friends and contacts went to fight in the war. This included his godfather, who became a soldier when the conflict began.
After communicating with him throughout the early days of the conflict, he learned from his godfather that there were many challenges. “He start[ed] telling me many scary things and that they don’t have a lot of things being there. The government can’t give soldiers all they need very fast, so they always need money to buy many things.”
Seeing an opportunity to help, Mosiahin tried to think of something he could do using his knowledge and experience as a filmmaker. “I proposed [to] him this film production idea as some additional income,” he says. His godfather agreed, so they worked together to try and figure out how to not only teach his godfather how to shoot videos of war in Ukraine, but also how to send Matvey the footage.
A Crash Course in Filming
“I [taught] him online how to shoot footage on mobile and drone with good or medium quality,” Mosiahin says it’s impossible to shoot any higher quality than that due to the situation, and they were able to get it going with a very basic setup with some simple filmmaking tips. “It was not so hard to teach him because it’s a mobile phone without even a tripod. I told him to try to hold the phone straight and not run or move with it, try to make soft turns, and so on.”
After the crash course, his godfather started to send him some “hot footage,” as he calls it, where his godfather’s battalion is fighting in “hot points.” Mosiahin says that Telegram was the only way they could send the footage since all other methods they tried didn’t work in the forest where his godfather was located. “So then I stabilized clips in Adobe Premiere Pro, did some color correction, and uploaded them to Pond5.”
The Psychological Effects
Outside of the technical challenges of working with an inexperienced shooter in an active war zone with connectivity issues, Matvey said it was tough to see the devastation. “The first reaction when I saw [these] clips was terrible, especially since you are safe and your friends are not. When [you] see that on TV news, that’s one thing, but when you see that ‘scary movie’ in real[ity] and you understand that all this [is] real, it was hard to accept psychologically.”
It’s hard to look at any of his footage and not be affected by it, regardless of how you feel about the war. The video is eye-opening and shows the grim realities associated with conflict. Mosiahin says that’s his goal. “This war – it’s terrible for sure, but I see that a little bit different [than] other people. This footage is something incredible that you can see only in some movies, and you know that this is a movie (not real), but in my case – all this [is] real.” He went on to say that he had Ukraine war video footage he just simply couldn’t upload for being too graphic.
One of the things Mosiahin is doing with the revenue he’s earning from his sales is sending money directly to his godfather’s private bank card to support him and his battalion. “He can buy/order something they need, like, for example, spare parts for [the] drone, [a] radio, some clothes, socks, [a] power bank, scotch, tasty food, [and] sometimes beer. Honestly, it is very difficult to be a soldier, you know, sometimes they just want to eat something delicious.”
While this footage has certainly been successful for him–several were our top sellers for 2022, in fact–he ultimately hopes that the war is over as soon as possible. “All Ukrainian people do their part to make the war end faster. I hope this footage [will] just be a memory of what was.”
We don’t know how or when the war will end, but Mosiahin will continue to pursue his interests when filming stock footage. He has good business sense and will even exchange footage with friends to diversify one another’s portfolios. Additionally, he’s also purchased footage directly from people to upload and sell himself, who may not have any interest or ability to sell it on their own.
“You know, in our business, you need to be smart :). I always ‘go with the flow’ and find interesting materials.”
Pond5 Supports Ukrainian Artists
The terrible events unfolding in Ukraine have left us heartbroken. The Pond5 community includes nearly 8,000 Ukraine-based artists who are living in unimaginable fear and danger. To support these artists, we’ve highlighted some of the incredible work they’re producing.
Explore our page of featured Ukrainian Artists, or alternatively, search ‘collection:SupportUkraine’ on the footage search page to find content produced by Ukrainian artists. Adding additional parameters to the search, like ‘collection:SupportUkraine protest’ will surface more specific content.
We stand with Ukraine and our community, with our hope and prayers for resolution.