Exploring the Outdoors With 2017 EyeEm Awards Winner Guiga Pirá
By Marili Persson - 3 min read
Guiga Pirá is last year's EyeEm Awards winner in The Great Outdoors category. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Guiga is a photographer and videographer without borders. In this interview, we learn about how he got started in the world of photography and drones, his tips for how to find success and succeed as a photographer, and what projects he's been up to since winning the award last year.
Always trying to focus his work on a good cause, Guiga is the co creator of The BIG Project, which is a photography initiative that tells stories about people involved with environmental and animal rights issues, and aims to inspire any individual to fight for life in this planet. After volunteering for several marine conservation campaigns on most continents, he developed as a photographer and took his photography skills to new heights.
How did your interest for photography come about?
Photography was part of the graphic design program in the university I went to. We learned about film photography and the whole process interested me: the mechanics of a camera, the dark room and the chemistry… Unfortunately, it was an expensive hobby, and at that time I was focused on my carreer as a graphic designer, so photography was left for later. Years after graduating and working as a visual merchandising designer for the fashion industry, I was burned out and realized I wasn’t spending time doing what I loved and believed. So I quit my job and joined a marine conservation organization called Sea Shepherd. At that time I was part of a campaign to document and oppose a dolphin hunt in Japan, and that was when I understood the power of photography. Armed only with cameras, our crew created a global movement to protect ocean wildlife worldwide, and made those who profit off the dolphin hunt and captivity suffer very significant losses, and even some policies were changed because of that.
“Nature is our life support system, and I try to bring people closer to this idea with photos.”
What is it about outdoor and nature photography that inspires you?
Nature itself. I’m positively impressed by the natural world as I’m negatively impressed by how most people are completely disconnected from it. Nature is our life support system, and I try to bring people closer to this idea with photos.
How did you get started in drone photography specifically, and why did it appeal to you?
I learned how to fly drones during a campaign to protect Pilot Whales from hunters in the Faroe Islands, but creative photography wasn’t the main objective. I used them to help locate pods of dolphins, understand the direction they’re swimming, and collect evidences of wildlife harassment. As a photographer, I took advantage of flying a camera and started to see how fascinating some locations are, even our everyday surroundings, if seen from above.
How would you describe your style or vision for taking photos?
I guess I’m yet to find my style as my way of seeing things is constantly evolving. But I do try to go minimalistic at the same time I search for compositions that take a moment to understand what’s going on.
You’re the EyeEm Awards 2017 winner in the category The Great Outdoors, with your image of the ship in Sea of Cortez, Mexico. What photographic projects have you been up to since then?
In 2017 I created a project called The BIG Project with a friend. We’re searching globally for small environmental and animal rights initiatives with big impacts. The project is in evolution as our goal was to tell these stories through photos, but we decided to incorporate text, and our next step will be including videos, as I’m also a filmmaker. We want to inspire people to take action for the planet we share and show that you don’t need to be a big organization, a hero or a lifelong activist to protect what keeps us alive. It’s great to do this, but it’s very challenging as it’s a personal project with no funding and we still need to spend a lot of time working for clients to be able to pay the bills.
“We want to inspire people to take action for the planet we share.”
What one photo means the most to you?
I guess this answer would change every week I’d be asked, since what means the most to me depends on what I feel at that particular moment. Right now, I’m trying to rid myself of excesses and communicate in a direct but subtle way, so this photo means the most:
Where is your favorite place or thing to shoot?
The ocean is my favorite place and thing to shoot. It offers a variety of possibilities as it’s constantly changing.
Once you arrive at a new location that you have not been to before, how do you spend your time searching for interesting environments, angles and compositions?
First, I try to understand the relationship between people and that environment. That will influence what I want to capture. Then I see if there is a very obvious composition so I can try to avoid it and capture it in a different and unique way. Maybe it’s a top down view, a low angle view, a reflection… That doesn’t mean I don’t take that obvious photo as well. Lastly, I try to understand how natural light and the elements affect that location and my composition.
“Then I see if there is a very obvious composition so I can try to avoid it and capture it in a different and unique way.”
In your opinion, what will drone technology and/or the drone landscape look like in the future?
I guess we’ll be able to see very interesting possibilities as technology improves. For example, stronger and waterproof drones could be able to capture beautiful images of storms and snow. But better regulations must be created because we’re in a spot where there are some places with very strict rules that make no sense, and others with a lack of regulations creating an unhealthy environment for pilots.
What advice would you tell an aspiring outdoors photographer?
Make mistakes. It’s the best way to learn. There is no right or wrong when it comes to your vision, so practice will show you what you like, what you dislike, what you should have done, what you shouldn’t have done… But never blame the environment for not taking a photo, because there is beauty in all conditions, weathers and locations.
“Make mistakes. It’s the best way to learn.”