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Meet Hugo Juarez of Juarez Photography, Heavy Defender Studios in Huntington Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hugo Juarez.

Hugo, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For the longest time since I can remember during my early teen years, there was this high interest for visual communications whether it was on Heavy Metal album covers, music-related magazines, video games, and retro movies. There wasn’t a moment that I wasn’t surrounded by both creative art and compelling photography. I think really the moment that I knew everything were to be changed was when I had discovered music that had influenced to me to go forth and take interest in a different path outside of the norm and make my own mark in this life. To build a legacy that represents me and my passions which was to learn, create, and inspire.

Originally from Lynwood CA (310) during the time when there was a transition, I had been drawing/ illiustrating more and more consistently and getting artistic influences both in music and art. I had a feeling this was on hobby that would eventually lead me to pursue and secure opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. After I had moved to Pomona CA (909) during my freshman year (2006) I realized what an amount of change there was being in a different county completely separating one from an old environment that they have grown so accustomed to. This was around the time where social media platforms and internet were barely becoming accessible (for us at least) so the opportunity to find resources and more influential Music/art came apparent with the friends that I had made who also had shared of similar interests. We would often all get together and talk about new albums or artists that we had discovered the day before, YouTube was a big part in finding similar bands that we were already listening to and went further down the rabbit holes that helped find more communities of like-minded individuals.

With a booming network of musicians and artists there’s a positive spread of recommendation that opens doors when you take an interest in people, that was my sole purpose for discovering new creatives. I later received a spark of interest for graphic design since we were migrating over to a digital world and had attended a small college in Upland, where I hustled, studied for my bachelors and worked in a huge graphic design company that made Promotional tents and inflatables for companies of all sizes. During this period, there was a whole lot on my plate (Work, school, music gigs, plus my own freelancing on the side) there has always been the objective to find a balance between priorities, obligations and past times. When the time finally came, I had to cut down on what was going to ultimately progress my future. I decided to push more effort and focus towards school and limiting the amount of distractions. Fast forward a few years all that hard work paid off and I push towards working in the creative field that was closer to home doing either Photography and/ or graphic design, Low and behold because of the extensive network I had the opportunity came to where I had been doing product photography and E-commerce design for a nationwide distributor for home furnishing decor. It doesn’t sound as sexy on paper but let me tell you, because of the position I was in there was also a fortunate amount of business insight I learned about retail, wholesale, and manufacturing that kept me wanting to learn more about running your very own type of business. Starting your own company was a thought that never really occurred to me up until this point in my life.

I went through different ventures, looking into entrepreneurial influencers and mentors who were already where I wanted to be and beyond (Chris do, Gary Vaynerchuck, Jared Polin, and Roberto Blake) which kept opening up new worlds and mindsets that I didn’t really believe in. There’s this “traditional“ pathway that were fed as young kids whereas an upcoming Latino you go to school and land a job in a big company, climbing up the corporate ladder and work 40+ years staying dedicated to a company. Much respect to those who have taken this safe route but I knew with every fiber of met body that this was not what would fulfill me. I kept on dabbling in my passions, adapting more skills and applying them in different media within my field. You name it and I’ve probably already worked in that niche: Screen Printing, Big Media Prints, Commercial Catalogs, Product photography, Web Design Layout, Flyers, Album artwork, Model Photography, Real Estate Photography, Wedding Photography, Logo Design, Landscape Photography, concert photography (I literally could go on) There’s this quote from photographer Jason Lanier where he says “ Those who have talent will do good, those who have passion will be rich, and if you have both that are applied to your passion. You’ll be unstoppable” and its smart sayings such as these that I’m always trying to find the inspiration to share with others as well. You then start to create a community that adheres to the type of work and message you try to put out in the world. As a Creator, Father, Minority, and Millennial, there are stereotypes that have others wondering, “Is this even a lifestyle worth putting yourself through?” “Can you really make a living as a graphic designer” and other questions as to how we are able to make a living through what most consider “just hobbies”. By planting the seeds early and having a clear vision on what you want in this life its definitely possible, we’re living in a very unique time where anyone can become successful when the right systems are in place.

Today there’s a whole new concept for what I’m trying to achieve. Now I reside in Los Angeles (323) I am in a position where each day is filled with abundance, prosperity and good energy. It seems like the more value you put out into the world, it tends to repay you back in better ways than you expect it to, and sure some days are better than others but that’s just part of the process. Having a photography business as well as having your own design studio goes hand in hand because there’s always something keeping you busy, I’ve narrowed down where in my perspective fields I wish to build awareness in a legacy. There’s been opportunities to take photographs and then later add my own twist with graphic design, merging the 2 to create heavy pieces of art with enthusiasts around the world. With COVID-19 in effect and a major change in our economy, it left me thinking about how I can pivot and adapt to this new world we’re entering. You go through a period of reflection where you ask yourself what’s working and what can you focus more energy on. One passion I wanted to follow was public speaking, and because we need to stay distant, it was an objective worth trying to accomplish. I found myself being able to teaching photoshop and illustrator through the Meetup platform, talking and giving workshops on my workflow as a photography/designer. I couldn’t believe it! I’m seriously getting the chance to work on my photography and talking about my thinking process from where I want to be to the desired results.

I’ve been working with a private sector company that’s contracted by LAUSD where we do portrait photography, the best part about this gig is that it shapes to you be better with customer service, and as a photographer you’re bound to do a lot of communication whether it’s onboarding new clients or even directing and posing individuals. It breaks you out of your comfort zone and pushes you to be more open with strangers. As a former introvert and now adapting to an ambivert, there’s a tremendous amount of change you go through being placed in these sorts of situations. And thanks to those moments of perseverance that have helped me get out of the traditional work setting and granted access to discovering new places related to your field.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s definitely been a very bumpy road, I’m not gonna lie there are times where you’ll feel at your lowest and this happens even to the best of us. As long as you’re giving reality checking yourself and do personal pep talks from time to time, you do what needs to be done to place yourself back in the proper state of mind. There are definitely life-enhancing activities that assist these positive thought impulses. Meditation, stoicism, minimalism and traveling have played a major role in my life, bringing peace of mind, assuring me to focus only on what I can control. Everything else sorts itself out, once you apply these types of belief systems into your subconscious mind there’s less clutter in your life.

Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by your community, your peers, or even by society. You feel the imposter syndrome taking over and there’s a feeling of uncertainty with what it is that you’re doing with your career/life. There’s been so much talk about “work/life balance” I’m trying to apply a work/life integration where your life is your brand, your voice, your community. Pricing that there are ways to live productively without burning out or taking time away from what matters to you.

Of course if it were easy, we would all be where we’d want to be, having obstacles and challenges are what create us, we learn to appreciate what it is we have and work for, given that it’s produced from putting in the work. I care much more about the journey rather than the destination, we’re constantly being reminded that we NEED to obtain things (materialistic possessions, a heightened lifestyle, social acceptance) when the reality is that we should really be focused on what makes us happy without the approval of anyone. Like Municipal Wastes lyrics, as long as you stay genuine and do things for yourself, that’s what ultimately matters.

Please tell us about Juarez Photography, Heavy Defender Studios.
There’s basically two companies in one (JUAREZ Photography – Heavy Defense Studios). One focuses on photography while the other is geared towards design. Often times, I’m able to mix in flavors of both which I always lean towards most. Main focus for both projects are based on retro 80s aesthetics. With a modern twist, I’m able to make it my own to satisfy another demographic in my Niche.

Its definitely known for the vintage types of vibes I prefer to create, which really brings awareness to like-minded individuals towards this spectrum.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Definitely would have been to execute more and complain less. There was definitely a lack of perspective and focus that could have helped a whole lot had I paid more attention to what really matters (business-wise) other than that I wouldn’t change a single thing.

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Image Credit:

Azja Turner, Band-Malignant, Carlos Cruz, Erik Danielsson, Medusa Cazey, Sergio Soto, Olof Wickstrand

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