Model Mayhem #:
Last Activity:
Feb 24, 2024
Very Experienced
Depends on Assignment
Jul 02, 2005

About Me

I have been a commercial photographer for over 30 years, and I operate one of the largest commercial studios in the San Francisco area (3,000sq.ft.), producing photography for ad agencies, corporations and publications. While I professionally photographs people for advertising, I make time to photograph individuals I find interesting.

I have been photographing the participants of Burning Man in a desert studio every year since 1995, creating an archive consisting of over 40,000 negatives. My personal style is the anthisis of the "glamour," "Maxim" or "Playboy" type of photography.  For my own work, I use only black and white film and traditional darkroom processes as well as minimal props, clear direct seeing and empathy for the people I photograph.

If my work interests you, feel free to contact me and come by the studio.  Should I photograph you, you will be given some prints (and Polaroids) from the session.  These prints are not TFCD or TFP.  When I photograph someone it isn't a trade, it is a collaboration; and the prints are a gift from their
maker to the other half of the equation.

Since this is my space I want to make a few comments for both the photographers and models I see on Model Mayhem.

First of all I think this site is a valuable asset for both in finding each other.

However, when I have time, and am bored here at the studio I do peruse the site and want to make some comments.  Take them as only my opinion but as a professional commercial photographer who has owned a commercial studio for almost 40 years and has, I think, a bit of knowledge on the subject.  After all, my profession has supported me, my family, sent my children through college, paid for my house, and allowed me to live pretty much as I have chosen.

Photographers:  If you are going to comment on a model's photographs please don't just cut and paste the same comment for every model.  The same persons put the exact same comment for every model they comment on.  Probably one way of trying to get them to take off whatever they are wearing.

If you have something to say, and claim to be original and unique, then at least think about what you are saying.

An outdoor photograph in dappled sunlight with the model in front of a chain link fence is not "great".  That type of light would only excite a dermatologist.

I have probably only commented on about 5 photographs ever on this site.  They were ones where I thought the photograph was well done and well seen.

If you are a "professional" you should be able to show it with photographs.  They speak louder than your words.

Along those lines, for all the assistants I have worked with over the years, and many worked with me full time for many years, one over a decade, I never once looked at a resume.  I looked, and hired them, based on their photographs. 

You don't "shoot".  You photograph.
"Editing" means selecting.  Look it up.  It is not retouching.  Nothing wrong with retouching I just chose not to do it.
Photography is my "passion".  I photograph more, especially in black and white, with film, more than anyone I know.  It isn't a passion.  It is what I do and will do as long as I can.
Beautiful "capture".  Again, it is a photograph.
"Tells a great story".  Photographs don't tell stories they are selected moments from an ongoing event and as such are subject to editing in the strongest and most accurate sense of the word.

So often I see "no (little) experience, paid assignments only".  When I first began learning a little about photography I was lucky enough to have a professional photographer allow me to work for him for free.  He even, once in a while, made a comment on my photographs.  On one review of my photographs a photographer whose work I admired commented on what I had done with the words "when you really see what you are doing you will be a much better photographer".  It only took me two weeks of looking seriously to realize that what I had shown him was garbage.  I dumped it all and started over.

Please when looking at your portfolio take the comments made with a lot more than a grain of salt.  Yes it strokes your ego.  No harm. But look, with a clear eye at what you are putting out there.

"I'm going to make it big in the modeling world and be a household name"  Face it, most of us will not be household names beyond our own household.  And if you are going to be big, whatever that means to you, then work at it.  Don't put up 4 photographs done in your bathroom/bedroom by yourself or a friend and expect to get a lot of work.  Find someone whose work you like and contact them.

I photograph a lot of professional models and with no exception, especially on a commercial assignment, they all know that it is work.  Hard work.

If someone, anyone, sends you an email get back to them.  If you had time to open it you had time to respond even if it was to say "no thanks".  Nothing more unprofessional than not responding.

If you are going to be late, first there is never an excuse for that, secondly pick up the phone and call.  If you have time to email/text you have more than enough time to call.  That's what phones are for.  Instant communications. Person to person communications. 

I have nothing against paying someone for their time.  But really, $200 an hour, you show up late, can't get a ride, make up not done. You do understand that your "regular job" would never put up with that once? 

Yes your time is valuable.  So is my time.  I figure that for each hour of photographing, in black and white on film, it takes me three hours in the darkroom just to process the negatives.  For example, last year at Burning Man (my 18th year for my Theme Camp) where I build a studio and photograph the participants it took me a month, yes a month almost full time, just to develop the negatives. 

I do so wish not sound harsh but these are facts.  If you enjoy the whole process of being photographed and having a good print from the experience then enjoy yourself. 

As I said, these are comments for both photographers and models.  You may take some of them to heart or not.  Not my concern.

Enjoy.  Think.
John Brennan

Verified Credits (6)

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"John was so professional and excellent in giving direction! He's a very nice photographer and really easy to work with. He knows just how to capture me at my most photogenic angles, and the polaroids I got show that his skills with the camera do not lie. I hope to shoot with him again soon, his creativity and eye for style is a perfect addition to anyone's portfolio." Read less

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"John and his assistants are extremely fun to be with! He is very inspirational and creative, and the way he photographs is amazing, with a great imagination, technique, and style!" Read less

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Credit Notes

Selected Solo Exhibits:

Kinsey Institute Group show

Burning Man Series, Cafe Matisse, San Jose, CA, 28 prints

Portraits, 10 Years at Burning Man.  S.F. Black and White Gallery, 65 prints.

Small Nudes, 35mm Black and White nudes, Santa Clara, 70 prints.

Selected Works, (Abstractions, Nudes, Gazos Creek, Seashore) Frame Art Workshops and Gallery, 50 prints.

Virginia City Black and White of Virginia City and American Flats.  Up Against the Wall Gallery, 30 prints.


Summit, Silver Nationwide Award, Thoughts and Photographs

"Thoughts and Photographs" 64 Black and white and color photographs with John's writings on photography and life (Joey Award)


Burning Man 2006, 13 Black and White photographs.

Latest Book:
Brief Encounters on the Playa.  74 pages, hard cover, portraits of participants of Burning Man.  A preview of the book can be seen at  Just enter the title.

Next Latest Book:
Morocco, Travels with Sarah.  Hard cover, color, photographs from a two week trip through Morocco.

Next book, when I can find the time.  South East Asia.  Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam.  Two months traveling and photographing.