Jan Hoek takes photographs to create links. The Dutch artist is interested in the unexpected, revealing itself during a shooting. With Boda Boda Madness, he presents surreal portraits of motorcycle-taxi drivers in Nairobi.

One day, following up on an ad to find models, Jan Hoek found himself in the house of a sixty year-old man – a person he would never have met under other circumstances. “This is when I knew I wanted to be a photographer”, he tells us. Since then, he has been using his camera to contact people he does not know and try to seize their reality. Far from the traditional photographer/subject approach, the Dutch artist is interested in what happens between his model and him, the result of their expectations. “I find it highly important to collaborate with the people I meet. The start of a project is also based on their desires.” Often, the reality of photoshoots are much different to what he had in mind, and the subject then becomes a creator.

Nairobi’s coolest motorcycle

Boda Boda Madness started from a common wish he shared with Kenyan-Ugandan fashion designer Bobbin Case. In Nairobi, the Boda Boda (motorcycle-taxi) drivers customise their vehicles to attract clients. The two friends had the idea to create outfits that would match their motorcycles. “All the Boda Boda drivers want to have Nairobi’s coolest motorcycle. We wanted to represent them as superstars”, Jan explains. As in all good collaborations, the two artists listened to the wishes of all drivers. “The rasta pilot wanted a helmet through which his dreadlocks would still be visible. So we pierced two holes in it”. Those portraits form a delicious and unexpected creation, where each detail matters. Reality of fantasy? One may wonder, looking at these superheroes.

© Jan Hoek