Juan Mayer is a skydiving photographer that I’ve been following since 2015. He took some of the most incredible photos I’ve ever seen. When I found out that Juan Mayer also has a skydiving photograph book, I went insane. I remember texting him and asking how I could buy it. Short story, I moved to Empuriabrava in 2019, and he came to live here in 2020. How cool is that? Well, for me, he is one more source of inspiration and another great person at my home DZ.
Juan Mayer was born in 1971 in Argentina. He was based in Dubai since 2012, and now he’s living in Empuriabrava, Spain. Mayer studied architecture when he was younger and discovered art photography, which is his current profession, with skydiving photography his passion.
In this interview, I’m asking questions about Juan’s skydiving photography book and about his ideas on skydiving photography. I’m sure you will find excellent and useful advice and lots of good stories. Please get directly in touch with Juan Mayer on his Instagram account if you want to buy his book.
How long takes to put a skydiving photograph book together? How can I get a copy of the book?
Juan Mayer: It took me almost 2 long years to finish it. The book has 104 pages full of Skydiving Photography. Many meetings and decisions with designers, proof writers, printing companies, etc., were in this process.
What do you prefer, the past or the present, regarding photography?
Juan Mayer: Well, both age has good and bad things 🙂 For example, the past was good because we had to make sure to ta the best picture we could with not so many tries. We would wait a few days until the photo store developed and printed it to see if we were doing a good job or what we should change to make it better. But at the same time, because everything was going slower than today, we got the time to appreciate every single picture much more.
Photography nowadays is going too fast, it’s my personal feeling, so people are not appreciating a good shot. Anyways, we have the advantage of seeing the results immediately, so it’s easier and faster to learn. Answering your question, I prefer the present. We can share our work as photographers for free with the rest of the world on social media. This is a big thing for me.
Do you still know how many places have you been because of skydiving? Where did you stay longer, and why?
Juan Mayer: To be honest, I’m not sure how many places. Indeed, from Argentina to China, to Egypt, and so many others all over the world. I stayed longer in New Zealand (almost a year) and Dubai (nearly 9/10 years). After all, I worked there as a Tandem Master and Dubai because I was lucky to move there almost since everything started with Skydive Dubai. For many years there was the place where many things were happening related to \ skydiving and many other aerial sports. It was really amazing!!!
If you have to pick 3 photos to describe your work that you can’t explain in words, which photographs do you chose?
Juan Mayer: Mmmm, it’s a very, very difficult question because every single picture has his own history behind. Imagine that I have been taking skydiving photos for about 20 years already, almost without stop, so it’s tough to remember all the images. But to answer your question partially, there was a sunset break off photograph I took filming a big way in Perris – USA. That stayed really in my mind until today. There was a complete formation, a record made photo, but people like it more. I think it was because of the same feeling I felt when I saw many of them tracking away with the background sunset. The picture I’m talking about is on page 90 of my book.
Another image could be a photo I took a few years ago of around a formation, we were flying on top of the pyramids. It was really challenging to get it right on top of that magical place and get it in focus 🙂 because I used a very long lens to take it. I knew there were many chances that I wouldn’t take it, but if I could, the photo would be extraordinary, and it was, at least for me!
Another picture could be one I took like 15 years ago of a Wingsuit exit in Germany. We exited on top of a massive storm. So, after we leave the airplane, I saw those wingsuits climbing and huge vertical clouds all over the place. The plane and the wingsuiters looked so small comparing the beauty of nature, which made me feel the real feeling of freedom. I was all the freefall hoping that my camera capture what I saw in those few seconds. And yes, I got the photo I wanted. It’s on page 50 of my book. Sorry, I think you ask me for photos I couldn’t describe with words, and I just did, hahaha.
There are many epic photos from Dubai. Could you describe in a few words how it is to skydive over The Palm Island?
Juan Mayer: It’s another incredible place where to skydive too. I prefer to skydive over natural areas, but what Dubai did creating that beautiful place is fantastic! Talking as a skydiving photographer, it could be one of the most beautiful and symmetrical places to take photos and especially skydiving ones. In so many years skydiving on top of the Palm Jumeirah, I never got tired of that view.
The Amazon River is well known in the entire world. How was it to see it in a bird’s eye view and register it?
Juan Mayer: This is really one of the photos you can’t describe with words. I remember myself flying on breaks under the canopy just to enjoy as much as possible that incredible view. I still remember repeating myself, “I’m soooo lucky to be flying under the canopy at sunset over the Amazon River.
If you have to choose between sunset or taking a photo of a skydiver’s face, which one do you pick and why?
Juan Mayer: I love sunset photos, but I will always prefer a skydiver’s face picture. Of course, one that really shows the feeling of him or her in freefall. Why? Because as a photographer, we are the only source to show the rest of the world what we are doing. Also, why we are jumping out of a plane so many times over and over. We are the only way to show our sports to the rest of the world, and give a chance to many others to try and feel it.
Some of the best pictures I have ever seen in skydiving are because of the enjoyment in a skydiver’s face. In your book, I found a picture of Nelson Jorge da Silva. I want to know what you feel when you see pure expressions like that.
Juan Mayer: I have to say that Nelson is a good friend of mine. He’s a person who gave so much to the sport. In that photo, in particular, Nelson and his 4-way team were just another training jump. And trying to get something different, I remember telling him, “Hey Nelson, for the break of I will be bellow you, so just track on top of me and look at my cameras” So, he did it. Still, I would never think he will show me that face of happiness and enjoyment. It was indeed a face showing the passion for something. In this case, it was his passion for skydiving.
What is so interesting about big formations? Do you have any thoughts to share on why we love it so much?
Juan Mayer: Big way formations or skydiving formations for us photographers is boring for 90% of the time. It’s always filming the same over and over. Usually, skydivers are doing it to break a new world record. But the exceptional part is that second when they accomplish the skydiving formation in the air, and we get the picture to prove the record. The feeling of many people from all over the world, coming from so many different cultures, different believes, different professions, different life status, all of them being happy with nothing else in between is just amazing. I don’t think many other sports can do it. This is why I really like big formations and because you have the opportunity to see many friends from all over the world.
Most of the skydiving photographers in the world love clouds and their effect on the pictures. If you could say something to all aspiring photographers worldwide concerning clouds, what would you tell them?
Juan Mayer: Yes, clouds are extraordinary in our sport. It’s for me like something beautiful to add to my photos. But technically, we can really use clouds to illuminate our photographs. Whatever sources of lights and reflections that any other photographer uses when shooting in a studio, it’s the same for us but using nature (the clouds).
My recommendation to other photographers is to start seeing clouds as something much more than just “a nice thing to have in a photo”. See it as a magical tool to paint and give some special light to the images. One thing I’m doing while I’m in the plane climbing to altitude, checking outside, and planning where to be in the sky to get the best light I could for my photos, depending on where the clouds are and what kind of clouds we got that day in particular.
Keep coming back
Thank you very much for your time and endless support during the interview. I’m thrilled to have Juan Mayer on my blog. It was a pleasure to read your book. All the photographs are extraordinary. The best I can do is recommend it to everyone I know, and you bet I’m going to do it.
If you like the interview, please let me know, send me an email or a message on Instagram. I want to know about your experience and thoughts!
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