Imagine a contemporary artist, their appearance, attitude, and character. The person you are picturing right now is likely Juan Brenner, who the Photography Society was fortunate to host this week. From his origins in Guatemala City, in a country he describes as the embodiment of the third-world, to a challenging time at high school and his passion for photography, he entertained the virtual audience with the story of his incredible life in photography.
With only one year of photography experience, no portfolio, and a decidedly average camera, Juan decided to move to New York. Reflecting on that decision, he reveals that he “didn’t know how or why, but just did it.” He ‘made it’ in fashion industry as an assistant fashion photographer, sharing its importance to his development as an artist. At the age of 24, he received his first Vogue publication and was travelling to Paris to shooting for L’Officiel. “It all got to my head, a cocktail of too much money and power, an inevitable toxic and unsustainable lifestyle, and I became mentally absent”, is his memory of this time. After 10 years in the fashion industry, Juan returned to Guatemala City, making the hard decision to enter into rehab.
Juan has since been on a journey to rediscover his art and his homeland. Working on his first project, ‘Tonatiuh’, he explained the intricate editing process which involved him locking himself in a room alone for two months, and the challenges of photographing his homeland in the midst of a civil war. Juan’s book has since been nominated for several prominent photography prizes.