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How Personal Projects Pays Off by Bruno Fujii

8/03/2019 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

How Personal Projects Pays Off

You might have heard about the value of personal projects in any photography career. What you probably didn’t hear is how long it can take leading to an actual work opportunity. There are definitively some short term benefits like exploring new techniques, different aesthetics, interpersonal approaches, making or revamping a portfolio.

But honestly, don’t think you will have instant recognition even with a planned roadmap of marketing it… or better: try not to make it about that instant recognition. Exposure can be good, but this rat race of social media numbers can also be a trap. Just try to be honest as you can with your photography.

Minas Gerais: In the backlands paths

Early in my career I jumped off the deep end, invested big money and time in one specific personal project inspired by one of my favorites books: “The Devil to Pay in the Backlands" (Grande Sertão: Veredas) by Guimarães Rosa. I got it done and it was a seminal point not only in my career but also in my life. Looking back I see how naive and excited I was about the possibilities ahead of me — very common with beginners —, and not frightened and stucked by the limitations presented at the time — very common with experts. But… I must admit I felt disappointed because after publishing and sharing with the world wide web, I was getting little to no attention at all… In the end, my frustration didn’t become a burden and I moved on, patiently, one job at the time.

Since then I decided to diversify my portfolio as a calculated strategy, and showcase to advertising agencies, brands, and magazines. My personal work has more of a dramatic look with real people, and I wanted to balance with more bright and produced images. I’m at this point now.

This year (5 years later), after a cold email I sent to a potential agency in São Paulo, I managed to schedule a meeting with the Creative Director. For my surprise, as I was showing some commercial works,  he asked me about my personal project in Minas Gerais and told me he liked very much. To give some context: after a few previous meetings I noticed Art Buyers and DCs wouldn’t care much for my personal work as much as they would for my experience with agencies, brands and celebrities; for this reason alone I reordered my portfolio to show the commercial works first. I was so excited that I showed the tattoo on my arm with illustrations of the first book edition, and after this we talked for more than one hour long about everything. That day I went home felling so good that even if I didn’t work with them in the future I was grateful for having such an easygoing meeting. A few weeks after, the Creative Director called me asking an estimate for a job. He pitched my work to the client and it was approved.

Headwaters of Mucuri

The project was created to take real actions on conservation (such as recovery of headwaters), socio-environmental education and forest restoration. My goal as a photographer was to document the most affected areas in the region of Malacacheta, Ladainha and Poté in Minas Gerais, Brazil. In this journey, with the support of rural extensionists working in the field, I met real people directly impacted by their assistance. This is an ongoing project with more than 400 identified headwaters in the recovery process, 50 thousand planted seedlings, 11 thousand impacted people, 1.200 visited sites.

So yes, personal projects pay off; it may not be the way you planned or in the time you wish, but it definitely pays off.

You may also like: Using Flag To Control Shadow (And Light) In Portraiture

About Bruno Fujii:

I’m Bruno Fujii, full-time photographer and visual storyteller living in São Paulo/Brasil. Chico Buarque fan. Film addicted. Passionate reader. Bike rider. Future writer. Graduated designer with visual communication skill (2002-2007), and incomplete lato sense degree in communication and semiotics (2011-2013). Self-taught photographer.  Let's Get Connected: 

This article and all the images were originally published on  and shared with his permission

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