For my first experiment, I am doing a photoessay. One of the writers whose pieces I researched for this genre is Bryan Denton, a freelance photographer and photojournalist. Based between New Delhi and Beirut, Denton is a contributing photographer for The New York Times and also does commissions for publications and humanitarian organizations. His work largely focuses on humanitarian conflicts and crises in North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Denton’s research is mostly conducted on the job. He visits the location of the conflict he is researching and then takes photographs of what he sees in the field. The text of his photoessay comes from interviews conducted of his subjects and stories he picks up while he is photographing. Any factual information that is needed to provide context is filled in through outside research from experts. For example, his piece “At the Front in a Scarred Falluja” places the focus on the photographs. The text is mostly information that he learned from his subjects and some historical facts about the fighting in Iraq and the actions of the Islamic State.
When conducting his own projects, Denton can choose where to go, what to take photos of, and how to write about his work. These pieces are then uploaded to his personal blog or portfolio. However, when he is working on commission for The New York Times or a different publication/organization, his choices are a bit more restricted. The overarching subject and direction of his work is then dictated by the editors of the publication. Of course, what he chooses to photograph is ultimately in his control since this part of his work happens in the moment while he is on location. Which photos ultimately end up being published and the content of the text, however, must go through the editors and publishers.
He negotiates a contract and receives a commission for the work he does for publications and humanitarian organizations. However, the photography he does on his own is not attached to a contract. The compensation, if any, for those pieces comes through sponsors and advertising.
Ultimately, Denton has a good amount of freedom and discretion in his work, since freelance photography and photojournalism leave a lot of the control in the hands of the photographer.