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

May 18th, 2009

For photographers, pursuing passions always pays off

Posted by liveBooks

Conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá was named the winner of The Prince’s Rainforests Project (PRP) Award at this year’s Sony World Photography Awards Gala ceremony in Cannes, France. The award includes a three-month expedition to document threatened tropical rainforests in the Amazon, Africa, and Indonesia, all fully funded by Sony Eco. Daniel has turned his passion for nature and his frequent work for Greenpeace into an award-winning career, including World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association, and Lucies awards — he calls his recent success “a snowball.” We couldn’t help but ask what got the snowball rolling in the first place.
Big river boat trapped on a sand bank East of Barreirinha, Brazil, during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in the Amazon. ©Daniel Beltra

Big river boat trapped on a sand bank East of Barreirinha, Brazil, during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in the Amazon. ©Daniel Beltra

Miki Johnson: You are obviously very passionate about nature and conservation issues. Where does that passion come from?

Daniel Beltra: Really since I was a kid I was passionate about nature and photography. I was interested at first in being an agency photojournalist, and I managed to get a staff position with EFE — the Spanish national agency. I was shooting all kinds of stories, but still with a taste for nature. I never finished college but I did a couple years of forestry engineering and four years of biology. Then I got tired of the normal day-to-day photographic work –- from the press conference to the basketball match to a demonstration. I wanted to do stories more in depth. I ended up quitting my job and I started working for Gamma, which allowed me to shoot stories that I selected and to give them more time.

At the same time I started shooting for Greenpeace, which opened this whole world to me as a photographer. That was really an incredible opportunity. All of a sudden I found myself traveling to Polynesia or the Antarctic or to Patagonia. So I was really on the frontier where many of these environmental issues were happening.

I got started with Greenpeace when I was a staff photographer in Spain. I talked to their local branch and they said, we do a lot with the media, so if something is going on in your area we’ll let you know. They called me one day and said they were doing a mammal survey on the Mediterranean. So I talked with my boss at EFE and he said, “Yeah right. What’s the news? And you want to take two weeks to do it?” I ended up convincing him to let me go on my own holiday time. I went with the agreement that if the story was good enough, the agency would distribute it. I was willing to go on my holiday because I was really passionate about it and I saw that it was a great opportunity.

Shooting for Greenpeace opened up this whole world to me.

I had a great time, they ended up distributing the story, and Greenpeace really liked it too. They came back to me and said, if you want to work with us, we’d be really happy to have you. But I was a staff photographer and I couldn’t. Then in 1992 I quit my job and started working with Greenpeace in Spain and also Greenpeace International, which is based in Holland. Since then I’ve been really involved with them. From 1992 until I moved to the United States in 2001 I was the Spain correspondent for Gamma. And often Gamma would say, “Are you working for Greenpeace or are you working for us?” Because I always wanted to go on the Greenpeace assignments. Of course Gamma had interesting assignments, but it’s very hard to compete with someone saying, “Do you want to go on a survey of the Arctic for three months on an icebreaker?” That was a no-brainer for me.

Greenpeace is my main client by far. They don’t employ any staff photographers; they work only with freelancers. I think they are clever the way they always want to have names in the industry that are recognized. So there’s a bit of a separation between the activism and the professional journalist that comes in. And in my case I try to keep that line separated, but deep in my soul I am very loyal to Greenpeace. But they don’t tell me what to shoot or anything. Of course they tell me they want a story about the Amazon, but once I’m there they don’t say show this, don’t show that.

Things are really changing with non-profits. I get the feeling that some non-profits can afford to pay regular market fees now. Maybe not 100%, but 75%. I think Greenpeace is very clever…they decided what are the best means to reach the public and inform the most people. And good photography or good video is a great tool. So to put someone that can do a great job in a situation that is very interesting and then they expose that in the media, it tends to work very well.

I feel that my work has more impact now than when I was a photojournalist. Not because I am better, but because of the situations I’m working in. I’m not only documenting what’s happening, but there’s a really strong will to change the situation. Greenpeace has pioneered that.


  1. May 18th, 2009 at 10:26 am

    For photographers, pursuing passions always pays off - Miki Johnson | Photo News Today

    […] Source and Read More: […]

  2. May 19th, 2009 at 5:27 am

    ForestWander Nature Photography

    I agree.

    Without being passionate about what you are photographing the shots will at best be decent.

    When you really seek what you love you will get some amazing perspectives.

  3. January 5th, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Daniel Beltra – Color, texture, rainforest: An interview with a conservation photographer « FiftyCrows Blog

    […] For photographers, pursuing passions always pays off Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Exhibition Opening at the FiftyCrows Gallery – International League of Co…Daniel Hyde InterviewColor & TexturePeru (part 1 of 4) “The Many Textures of the Rainforest” […]

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