Johan Spanner was born in Copenhagen in 1974.

He was drafted into the Danish Army and served with UN and NATO troops in Croatia and Bosnia. Seeing the powerlessness of the military effort sparked his interest in journalism. After leaving the Army he traveled to Kosovo to document the aftermath of that conflict.
In 2001 he moved to New York to continue studies at the International Center of Photography and stayed throughout the buildup to the Iraq war. Sensing that the Iraq war would become the defining conflict of his generation, he set out to document it. Despite initially being swept up and incarcerated by Saddam's forces, he has kept going back there over the years.
Johan Spanner has worked in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.
He has completed assignments for The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker, BBC, WIRED and others, and produced and directed a segment of the documentary film 'Heavy Metal in Baghdad'.