Telling Stories Through Images

Juan Torrico

About the Photographer

My journey as a documentary photographer started before I knew there was such an industry. In 1993, as a young high school yearbook photographer, I ran around the school, taking photos of my classmates without them realizing I had snapped an image until it was published. I wanted to capture the story of my friends and our memorable senior year together.

When the yearbook arrived in the spring of '94, I was satisfied with my contribution and cherished my time working on this project. Looking back, I wish I would have continued documenting my life or taking on other photography projects. Unfortunately, I did not know that I could pursue a career in photojournalism. I enrolled in engineering school.

Several decades later, I faced a life-changing incident when three teenagers attacked me while walking home on a warm summer night in 2012. This resulted in an orbital fracture and three eye surgeries. When my vision and perspective suffered, I found myself picking up a camera to document my life once again.

Fifteen months after the incident, I called Julio Mariño, an accomplished art dealer and painter who migrated from Uruguay to Washington, DC, in the '90s. Even though Julio is semi-retired and sold his fine art gallery in Uruguay, he continues to keep himself busy by pursuing his lifelong interest in painting, curating, and restoring art pieces for exhibits around the world and the Uruguayan Embassy in D.C.

Meeting with Julio to review my portfolio was a wonderful experience in itself. He has a beautiful home in the Adams Morgan area of DC. The walls of his house are adorned with the works of accomplished artists he has worked with throughout the years, as well as his own paintings.

Before getting down to business, we sat down to enjoy a glass of vermouth from Spain, paired with prosciutto, cheese, and nuts, followed by a cup of Argentinian mate tea. Julio reminded me of my grandfather, a true gentleman who was always well-dressed when people came over to the house for tea or coffee. He often wore tan or brown corduroy pants and a plaid button-down shirt; I’m not sure if his attire was reflective of the respect inherent in Latin American culture or if he simply evoked an earlier time period.

Julio was born in Treinta Tres, Uruguay, in 1932, and he studied with Professors Taranca and Mancebo Rojas at an early age. By the 1970s, he formed part of Uruguay's "Grupo de 8," which consisted of leading Uruguayan artists. Shortly thereafter, he established the Galería de Arte Contemporánea, which became one of the most influential galleries of the Southern Cone in its time. For over an hour, we talked about his life as an art dealer and the interesting people he worked with, and how he was able to amass a large collection of contemporary Latino American artist work. He values educating people on the art of buying paintings as an investment and for the simple pleasure of looking at them. Julio's work hangs in various galleries worldwide, including the Uruguayan embassy, the Art Museum of the OAS, Miami, and local and private collections. After catching up on his latest gallery curations, he looked at my work and made a few comments concerning the lighting and composition. He told me that I have a good eye and raw talent. He encouraged me to continue taking as many photos as possible to find my own voice in my artwork. He also agreed to let me take his portrait since he noticed I had no portrait work in my portfolio at the time.

I have come full circle. It's been 28 years and over 30,000 photos taken since I first picked up a high school student camera. I am now the staff photographer for the 12th largest transit agency in the country, and I spend my time telling the story of the people who make the Maryland transit system run.

Several of my photos have appeared on billboards, social media, local news, and a prominent transit magazine cover. One of my portraits now hangs at the Maryland Department of Transportation Headquarters at the previous MDOT Secretary's request.

In 2020 I started my own media agency, where I work with clients telling their stories through media.