Street-Photo Spotlight: Juan Buhler

The latest installment in an occasional series to showcase photographers who see San Francisco in remarkable ways.

In his street photography, Juan Buhler evokes a genuine tenderness and respect for folks in San Francisco. Though he’s taken pictures all over the world, the city is his stomping grounds, and residents with candid expression and unguarded joy are his subjects. (You might have already seen some of Buhler’s images atop the front page of The Frisc and our social-media pages.)

“When I was a kid I was very shy. At one point, I kind of realized I cannot keep on being like this,” he says, admitting even today to being an introvert. “Taking photos and moments and reactions and interactions are a way for me to work on that and relate to people. You could say it’s a way to hide behind a camera — or using a camera to relate to people.”

Buhler works in data science and machine learning, but built his career in visual effects, holding a patent in 3D character modeling. “The first big project I worked on was the movie Antz — very technical, but also making images all the time,” he recalls. “You make your shot, you do something you think is awesome, and the director doesn’t agree, so you have to make a change. It’s not your own art.” That was his entrée into photography: “I could make my own images without owing anything to anybody.”

In addition, going on shoots is how Buhler connects to place. “I consider [San Francisco] my city, like so many other people who are not from here but who are from here,” he says, describing his path from growing up in a province outside Buenos Aires, arriving at that capital city, then eventually coming to the United States — at each stage feeling “like I’ve been an outsider.” Devoting creative effort to capturing what he calls “quotable moments” around the city is “a way of being a part of it, whether it wants it or not.”

San Francisco serves as Buhler’s muse, and ours too. If you have a favorite photographer who would appreciate being featured, or want to show us your own cool stuff, don’t be shy. Reach out in your favorite way.

All images by Juan Buhler. You can find more of his photos on Instagram and on Facebook.

For more SF photography, check out previous spotlights featuring Jessica Christian and Troy Holden, as well as this Hunters Point portfolio by Devon Kelley