Photographer Florian Renner back-packed through Cuba, Mexico and all the way down to Panama, asking working men from various backgrounds to pose for a photograph with one thing in common – all wearing a Hugo Boss Jacket. He shared his story with us in Supplementaire #14…
ARTIST STATEMENT from FLORIAN RENNER
What happens if I take a portrait series of men from various countries, different backgrounds and beliefs… all wearing the same jacket?
I have had this idea for a while already and when I went backpacking with my girlfriend earlier this year, from Mexico to Panama (with a stop-over in Cuba), that was my opportunity to bring this idea alive…
I wanted to street-cast men in the different countries for this project. Will the jacket become part of their natural environment and merge into their reality? Or will it change the person, and look styled and placed?
As I usually shoot fashion, I wanted to include a fashion relevance to some extent and was able to collaborate with Hugo Boss for this project.
I went for a jacket from their spring 2014 season and chose a color and material that I thought could work well with the climate and colors of Central America.
Travelling for me always means exploring, trying to find the real life in the country that I am in. Walking through cities, villages or places I have never been before is always so inspiring. I will pass by open windows or doors, see people working in tiny workshops, kids playing in backyards and get a few seconds of the real life when passing by – a glimpse of reality.
These are all places I would love to enter, people I am intrigued by, but usually there’s no reason for me to stop, and the inhibition to just speak to these strangers too big. So I would usually pass them, wondering what these people’s stories were.
Now with the jacket in my backpack, I had a reason to stop and speak to them or to enter the places that I felt I wanted to know more about.
These are portraits of the people I would have passed; I would have never spoken with to hear about their lives and stories… if it wasn’t for the jacket. It was my link to these men and the reason and motivation to stop and speak to them. I got so much closer to the countries and their people thanks to this project.
Apart from carrying the jacket in my day bag everywhere, I had to travel light, so all photographic equipment I had with me was my favorite travel camera, the Fuji X100.
Implementing such a project in these countries can also be very difficult. I wasn’t welcome everywhere, especially in Cuba. The people where very cautious and some seemed to be even afraid to take part in a project like this. Many people just didn’t really understand why I would want to take a picture of them wearing this jacket! But others, especially Mexicans seemed very open and interested to take part in this project. Still, most of the men didn’t even have an email address when I asked them if they wanted their picture sent.
The shop owner, street vendor, repairman or fisherman, all these men have their own life, their own responsibilities and dreams. All of them are hard working men. And for the moment I had the chance to take their picture, they had another thing in common: They all wore the same jacket. For this moment, it was part of their life and their reality.
Special thanks to Hugo Boss for supporting my project! I would also like to thank all the men who took part in this portrait series and a big thank you to Isabell Boettcher for helping with the casting and logistics of this project. The jacket featured throughout is from Hugo Boss Spring 2014 collection: (‘T-Jordon’ (50263219) Mohair – Virgin Wool blend)
Photography & words by Florian Renner
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