Q&A with Adriane Ohanesian: Finding success in freelance photojournalism

by Mandla Chinula
Oct 30, 2018 in Multimedia Journalism

Being a freelance photojournalist can come with a lot of perks. The ability to work on your own schedule, pursue long-term projects independently and focus on passion projects can give one a sense of freedom. However, it also comes with its own challenges. The financial and emotional pressures that come with working solo can at times make journalists think twice about being in the industry.

Having faced a number of these challenges, photojournalist Adriane Ohanesian has still managed to scoop a number of awards for her work in high-risk countries like South Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar and Burundi. IJNet caught up with her to talk about life as a freelance photojournalist:

IJNet: Young photojournalists are at times pressured into thinking that in order for them to be successful and be recognized, they have to go catch the next plane to Sudan and document war and conflict, which is actually not the way it went about for you. How do we avoid perpetuating this kind of stereotype or view of a successful photojournalist?

Ohanesian: I think that people need to remember that without the right amount of experience, your ability to make quality images in intense situations will not be very strong. Your images will be successful if it’s a topic that you're passionate about.

Is there any kind of pressure associated with the awards and recognitions you've received? How do you remain true to yourself and your work?

I do not produce the work with the intention or the desire to win awards. I have felt more pressure simply because I have come to realize that more people have been looking at the images.

You were quoted saying “There’s always a hope in my mind that a photograph will spark a thought, realization or action that could help to change a situation for the better.” How do you deal with situations where you document a story over and over again and nothing changes for the better?

Things always change, and no situation is ever the same from one day to the next. It can be frustrating to see places or communities regress, but it’s my work to document and share that information.

If you were in a position to do more to solve the situation in Darfur, on top of taking pictures, what would it be?    

I don’t think things are so simple. We should all remember that we can do small things to contribute to peace in Sudan. Work with Sudanese refugees in your own community, help to sponsor a Sudanese child to go to school; we are all already in a position of power to help to solve problems.

How do you manage to keep yourself emotionally stable, considering the conflict work itself and the financial demands of the job?  

I think that some people are built for certain types of work. I don’t think that I have found a perfect work-life balance, but I am trying to enjoy the time I have while I am not working, instead of burning myself out!

Are you still seeing a future in being a freelance photojournalist?

I am enjoying where I am and always trying to improve, so I hope so!

Images courtesy of Adriane Ohanesian.