Believe it or not but Jose Manreza is a recent discovery. I know, it is hard to imagine. Just looking at the guy makes you think he was born to be on film. But it wasn’t before a friend of photographer John Balzola met him at a local gym and sent him to John’s studio. John immediately saw Jose’s potential: “His smouldering good looks and masculinity would be amazing on ‘film’. He’s Cuban American, and believe it or not, this is part of his first modelling job. As a result of our work, he is now represented by (and booking jobs) Front Management”
John Balzola was born in New York City, raised in Madrid and currently loves and works in Miami. And Miami is the place where he belongs. As soon as he had set food on the ground there, he fell in love with the tree covered streets and the blue and pink skies. Though a sense of visual arts was already established in his early childhood years by spending ours flipping through his grandmothers fashion magazines and modifying them with markers and pens, John eventually ended up studying Economics, earned a Master in International Business and Telecommunications Network Management and in a career as a corporate financial analyst. But creativity runs deep and living in Miami’s artistic South Beach area surrounded by artists, models, actors and photographers, John eventually recalled how much fun he had as a child using his first camera and his poor sister to create his own fashion shoots. And this revelation made him decide to give up his finance job and dedicate all his time to become a professional photographer.
His many contacts in the industry offered John Balzola the opportunity to work with some of the top photographers in the business. He took free, and later paid, assistant assignments and learned all he could on the job: “Some jobs were fabulous, others were brutal. But I learned something from every one of them, and gained a very solid foundation. I continued to assist, even though I was told I should just start doing my own work. But the learning factor, combined with the money, and the contacts I made, were still a big draw.” Now, twelve years later, John has gained enormous knowledge about lighting and photography and built an impressive portfolio by himself, including advertising, portraiture, still life and landscape photography and various publications in magazines such as People En Espagnol, fronties, Instinct and Genre.
When John met Jose Manreza, he was immediately drawn to his rugged masculinity and instead of downplaying it, he choose to emphasize it for the shoot. The inspiration for the shoot was the film “Before Night Falls” directed by Julian Schnabel. Jose was perfect for the role and the theme solidified as they worked together. Grateful for his chances in life, John Balzola keeps assisting his friends, learning everything he can about the art of photography. But he is also taking on more and more independent jobs. All in Miami, where he prefers to work, inspired by those open skies that represent the endless freedom he has found in his creative work. –BM-
JOHN BALZOLA | BEAUTIFULMAG