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Meet Koreatown Photographer and Director: John Henry Baliton

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Henry Baliton.

John Henry, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life, grew up in the Antelope Valley and now reside in Los Angeles. My love for the arts started late in my life. After high school, I was lost. I dabbled in the medical field and pursued a career in nursing. During my education in community college, there was an opportunity to take elective classes and out of the blue, I decided to enroll in a film class.

A whole new world opened up to me and gave me the permission to be creative. I took the film class multiple times, so I can develop my understanding of arts and to create a portfolio. I dropped out of the nursing program and decided to submit my short, naive films to Art Center in Pasadena. Luckily, I was accepted.

During my education at Art Center, I got to develop and discover not only what kind of work I like to do but also who I am as a person. I’ve always loved people and their stories but it was difficult for me to create something visually beautiful. I decided to stay at Art Center and take photography classes to improve my visual aesthetics, luckily I had wonderful teachers to guide me through the post-school transition.

After Art Center, I worked in fashion with various model agencies and publications. Three years into it, I realized it wasn’t for me. I booked a one-way ticket to Europe and backpacked for eight months to discover the world. I became homesick, I missed Los Angeles, with its diversity, free spirit, and just vibrance of life. I returned in the summer of 2012 and primarily focused on creating my own work.

Today, I work both in film, photo and became in love with teaching. I have a passion for teaching in community colleges, to try to give the students the same enlightenment and reveal this different side of the life that everyone should embrace.

Has it been a smooth road?
I hope it never is a smooth road. I consciously try to take the more difficult road to develop not only as an artist but as a person. The main struggle I found is being tied down to a specific idea of success. Each one of us has our own definition of success and when we are young we see people becoming successful and we got bogged down on why we can’t be that successful. I learned to define what success means to me and it’s not something grand, like photography, it’s the simple things.

What is the most difficult part of what you do?
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to endure in my work is differentiating between commercial work and personal work. We all have to survive and hence the commercial work, we need to do it but we also have to balance our personal work, the work that matters to us most. I completely keep them separate. I found it hard for me to sell my personal work, difficult to put a price on something you find invaluable. Commercial work I get to practice my craft, personal work I get to learn who I am. They are both valuable.

What are you striving for, what criteria or markers have you set as indicators of success?
My definition of success has grown with me. When I first started, I wanted to become famous, be invited to nice galleries, be in magazines, be acknowledge. Now I tend to shed all my past ‘success’ ideas. It’s a wonderful freedom to be able to create what you find to be important and needs to be said, not what’s popular or will get me the most fame.

I’m always fascinated with the underdogs, outcasts, or the marginalized. I want my ideas and values to be constantly challenged, I always look out for people who disagree with me or I disagree with, I believe that’s one of the ways to become unified.

My deeper goal is to become more loving, more courageous, more accepting and less full of shit. To really open my eyes and see the world how it truly is… and if some of that can get into my work, that’d be a plus.

So, what should we be on the lookout for, what’s next in store for you?
I keep my plans fairly loose. Go with the wind kind of style, but I know I want to involve teaching in some sort of way.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 818-205-7692
  • Email:
  • Instagram: synthetichugs

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