A collaborative online community that brings together photographers and creative professionals of every kind to find ways to keep photography relevant, respected, and profitable.

Have an idea for a post?

Want us to find an answer to your question? Interested in becoming a contributor?Email us

‹ Home

February 4th, 2009

It’s never too late to start a personal project 1

Posted by Greg Gibson

Last August Greg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and wedding photographer, started his first personal project, with Brazilian photojournalist Izan Petterle. Greg shares of few of his images from the project here, as well as the story of how he finally realized the importance of personal work. Check out “It’s never too late…2”, where Greg discusses the impact his personal project has had on his wedding photography.

I was connected with Izan Petterle through Duda Escobar, the show manager for PhotoImage Brazil and the reason I’d come to Brazil in the first place. She invited me down to give the keynote address on wedding photography.

During the planning she asked if I would be interested in teaching a post-convention workshop with Izan in a Brazilian wilderness area called The Pantanal. I didn’t know anything about Izan and was a little nervous about jumping into something unfamiliar in such a remote area. I was also concerned about leaving my business for almost three weeks in August. Initially I declined.

After thinking about it a bit, I decided it was a great opportunity to get out and see a very remote part of a beautiful country. And after speaking to Izan I was completely at ease. Izan has been doing PhotoExpeditions for years and he is a wonderful, kind person. We decided to proceed with a PhotoExpedition after the PhotoImage Brazil conference.

Because I was so late agreeing to do the expedition, there was precious little time to promote the workshop. The day I left for Brazil, no one had signed up yet. Izan and I almost canceled the trip, but he kept assuring me that Brazilians are spur-of-the-moment people. He felt certain we would get some students.

In the end we decided to do the trip with or without students; it was a great chance for both of us to stretch our creative legs a bit. Since leaving journalism in 2000 I have mostly photographed women in white dresses each Saturday, and it was time to do something new. Sure enough we ended up with three students, all of whom signed up just a day or two before the start of the expedition!

Izan had a loose idea about going to some ranches and photographing the cowboys at work. It turns out that the owner of the first lodge we stayed at, André Thuronyi, is also the marketing director for the local cattleman’s association. André had a short-term idea of producing a calendar for the cattleman’s association but a longer-term goal of producing a book documenting the Panteneiro cowboys, their horses, and the land. The Pantanal is a unique farming area, a wetlands where the grazing areas are under four feet of water for a good portion of the year. Much of the cowboys’ work is done in the water, which, by the way, is filled with caiman (the Brazilian version of crocodiles), snakes, and other critters.

Like farm and ranch life in the United States, this is a very traditional way of life that is fading as more money and technology come into the area. André wanted to see this life preserved, at least in documentary form. He asked Izan and I if we would be interested in producing images for a book and calendar. We told André we were interested and were willing to do some exploratory research if he could hook us up with some ranchers and farms. He connected us with several great places to photograph.

On that first expedition, we made a ton of great pictures in just four short days. Needless to say we found out there would be plenty of material for a book project. Izan and I did a second PhotoExpedition in November, and I actually went a week early to spend some time photographing the cowboys in the Pantanal before we brought our students along.

André felt that the cowboys, the horses, and the water all connected spiritually. It is also important to us to capture the change of seasons, which has a big effect on the landscape. When we were there in August it was the dry season. Although it was dusty and brown, we had wonderful light to work with. Every day there was a beautiful sunrise or sunset with the most crisp, colorful light you can image.

In November, it was the start of the rainy season so the area was much greener, but the colors were more muted since there were low-lying clouds on the horizon every morning and afternoon. Without that crisp light from before, I think the pictures from the second time around have a more intimate and personal feel to them. We did more behind the scenes types of pictures and got to see more of how the cowboys live off the horses. You can see more of my images from The Pantanal here, here, and here.

We are planning to go back in April/May. That will be the wet season when all the farms are underwater. I hear that is a spectacular time in the Pantanal, and I’m looking forward to seeing it and documenting it.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: This is such a great example of how simply saying “yes” can lead to a career-changing adventure. Any other stories about projects that grew out of a serendipitous situation?


  1. March 3rd, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Brad Markel

    For Greg Gibson: Hey Greg, Awesome, beautiful images. Long time no see. How did your leg injury heal? Good to see yuor work. from Brad Markel

  2. March 4th, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Greg Gibson

    Hey Brad – wow – long time no see. Talk about a blast from the past! Great to hear from you. My leg injury has healed just fine and I am 100%, although I have a lot less hair, at least on my head! Thanks for the note!

Leave a reply



Learn how to engage your audience and
build brand recognition across social
channels. Learn more...

Free eBook

Search Resolve



Pick your package. Pick your design.
No credit card required.

Start 14-day Free Trial
Compare packages