Soldiers of Style – Photos by Charles Freger
Frenchman Charles Freger has a thing for men in uniform. He likes to shoot them. Before you get any ideas, let it be known that he is a photographer and he likes to take photographs of men in uniform.
“My passion for photographing people in uniform started in 1998 with a list of things and people I wanted to photograph, a kind of poetic inventory of people I wanted to watch face-to-face. The question of uniformity was, from the start, a part of this,” he explains.
Charles has photographed French legionnaires, water polo players, English school pupils, Japanese sumo wrestlers and the Indian Sikh regiment. Despite being considered a specialist of portraits in uniform and having published 13 books, it took Charles a year and a half to get the permission to shoot the Sikh regiment.
“Bureaucracy can take ages… but I keep at it because the real pleasure comes when I’m walking into the circle of the community. It’s all about this wish to discover a group from the inside and to have a real possibility to interact with them,” he says. Funnily enough, Charles and his assistants are usually dressed in black. All black. Men in uniform meeting other men in uniform.
According to Charles, fashion is constantly changing and often inspired by military uniforms. “Think Givency, Lacroix,” he says. Yet, it’s difficult to change uniforms because they are based on strict rules and history. He adds, “It’s not about doing a few prototypes. It’s about dressing 20,000 people in exactly the same way! I now collaborate with fashion designers such as Gaspard Yurkievich and Felipe Oliveira Baptista. I’ve photographed so many people in uniform that my work can be used a reference to produce something fashionable… this is a real interesting step in work and a great experience.”
For all the men in uniform he has photographed, Charles’ personal favourites are the Indian Sikh soldiers and the Black Watch regiment of Scotland. “The Sikh soldiers fascinated me for their wish to always look nice. They always check their beard and moustache and have a certain idea of aesthetics… I really like that. But my favourites are the Black Watch regiment. I must be a pipe-and-drums fan somehow,” he laughs.
Charles Freger’s ‘Portraits Photographiques et Uniformes’ will be on view from October 6 to October 30, 2010, 11am to 7pm at the Mathieu Foss Gallery, Hansraj Damodar Building, Goa Street, Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 001; t: 022 6747 7261
– Salil Jayakar