Most people – ourselves included – will consider themselves lucky to have found the one thing they’re really good at in life. Others were born with several talents and need to figure out how to juggle all of them. Hans Borg falls into the latter category, combining life as a young truckdriver and entrepreneur with his passion for photography and art, while still staying a skateboarder through and through. As humble and kind as they come, Hans took the time to show us some of the places that matter most to him (with his loyal canine companion Louis in tow) and to tell us his story. Dive in with us.
MEET ME IN ZEEBRUGGE.
My father is originally from the Netherlands and has been a truckdriver since he was 15. One day, after dropping off his container here at the port of Zeebrugge, he had to report at the front desk and that’s where my mom worked. That’s how they met, it’s a truly romantic tale (laughs). But it wasn’t like I was destined to follow in his footsteps, though he did take me with him sometimes. We’d drive to England, France or Germany and those trips were always exciting, as you can imagine. But other than the occasional outing, I literally had zero interest in transportation, it wasn’t anything I wanted to pursue.
By the time I finished high school, I’d already been travelling and going on skate trips a lot. On those, I was always surrounded by cooler, older people, so every time I’d get back to school afterwards, it seemed kind of tame. Skateboarding energized me, while school paled in comparison. When it was time to choose what to study next, I had no idea what to do, so I decided to take a year off. I travelled, did some odd jobs and skated a lot of course (laughs).
That year flew by. Of course, after a while, my parents started telling me I really had to get off my ass. It just so happened that one of the trucks in my father’s business was available at the time. He didn’t have anyone to drive it, so I figured why not. I got my driver’s license when I was 19, started trucking and here we are, 8 years down the line. I don’t regret anything, though I’ve got to admit that it was rough at first. We’d have to work A LOT. Sometimes 18-19 hours a day, which simply is too much. Back then, we still covered bigger distances, which now has become a rare thing. A typical day nowadays starts with me leaving at 6.30 am and getting back around 4.30 pm. Most of my drives are very local, which is more comfortable, but a little scary at the same time because I get to see less of the world.
For the past few years I’ve been running the company, because my father can’t anymore. He got ill so I had to step up and take over the wheel, so to speak. It hasn’t been easy at all, but I’ve gotten the hang of it with time. Everyone has their own trajectory, this is mine. It provides financial stability but also allows me to be creative and do whatever I want in my spare time. There’s a lot of waiting involved with truck driving, so I try to be prepared and take my hard drive and laptop with me so I can edit photos while I wait. That’s one of the perks of the job.
How I rolled into skateboarding? That story goes back to when I was a little kid in elementary school. My parents had moved so I had to change schools in the middle of the school year. It was a strange time for me because, from the start, I was often picked on. I guess it simply was because of the way I interacted and because of the way I talked, my dad being Dutch gave me a bit of a different accent and you know how cruel kids can be. I had a hard time fitting in and making friends. But when I was around 10, my parents got me a skateboard for my birthday. I immediately got super into it. Then one day, out of the blue, my mom gave me a ride to the skatepark in Bruges and dropped me off on the spot. I didn’t know anyone there, but I was instantly welcomed with open arms. No matter what age or what background, everyone seemed to get along fine there, because we all shared that same passion. Skateboarding is such a unifying factor. It’s a unique community that is open minded and embraces differences and diversity. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I’ll honestly say that it’s a warmer and more welcoming place than most.
When I skate nowadays, what I enjoy the most is a smooth transition, a nice-looking line, a well-executed kickflip. I love skating spots that aren’t necessarily suited for it. The challenge that comes with that is the coolest. If you’re trying to skate streethere in Bruges for example, it’s so hard to find a good spot – but we manage. We even land on cobblestones (laughs).You can skate everywhere. But please understand, I’m not Phil Zwijsen, I’m not Jarne Verbruggen, I’m not Jonathan Thijs. I’ve always been good at skating; it’s part of who I am, but I was never the best at it. And I always knew that. It was never going to be career for me, and it didn’t have to be. The world around it, the community, the friendships forged – those are the things that have always truly mattered to me.
REWIND IT LIKE A VHS.
When I was little, I started experimenting with my father’s VHS camera. I’d gather all my Action Man dolls and create masks for them, then I’d think of a storyline and would film it all. That would keep me occupied for days (laughs).I guess that was my earliest passion, before getting into skateboarding. Years later when I was going on skateboarding trips, there usually would be a photographer with us. Talented people like Stijn Lammertyn, Davy Van Laere, Korneel Cools and Willem Vleugels for example. I took an interest in what they were doing and learned from them just by casually observing. What I’d seen them do stuck with me when I started exploring photography myself later on.
That happened while I was out with an ankle injury. Stuck at home, I started browsing the photo albums my parents had. They had so many, with thousands of analog pictures in them. It made me realize that I didn’t have a lot of documentation of what I’d witnessed and experienced, so when I picked up a camera, I started documenting what I saw around me. Collecting memories. Logically, I focused heavily on skateboarding at first, but after a while that became less interesting as a subject, so I started diversifying. My family – no matter how small it may be - is an important subject and my girlfriend too, of course. But it can literally be anything that I find interesting or striking.
When it comes to photography, I’m open to anything, as long as I can do it my way. I combine doing my own thing with commissioned projects of all kinds. Sure enough, time restrictions can be frustrating sometimes because - of course - I’d like to focus more on photography and art with time. Ideally, I’d like to manage the truck business from a distance, without actually being there or being on the road all the time myself. But whenever things get tough, I think of the benefits of experiencing both worlds. I wouldn’t be who I am without that. When I look around, I see so many people that have it a lot harder than me. People that struggle to get by. People that are super unhappy with where they’re at in life. That’s not me. I have a lot to be thankful for.
ROUGH VERSUS FRAGILE.
The art I created started off by playing around with emulsions, which I now combine with super fragile metal and glass frames. Each one is unique, created by hand, using different techniques. I experiment with the format all the time and the cool thing is that it really seems to be catching on. I recently had my first exhibition, here in Bruges at the Thomas Serruys gallery. Much to my surprise I sold half of the work I’d made for it. It’s partly due to the feedback Thomas has given me that I’ve started exploring this route further. He really encourages me to think out of the box and, at the same time, he knows what works in a gallery setting.
When I was preparing for that first exhibition in Bruges, I had about a month to come up with new work. I could’ve taken the easy route by using things I’d already created but I know I could do better. So, for weeks on end I would drop off the truck after work and then go straight to the shed. It’s a dusty, old little shed behind my parents’ house that serves as a DIY-workshop for my father and myself. It’s where I create the frames and cut the glass plates to size. I also weld everything myself – it’s all time consuming because I’m a perfectionist and want to get it just right.
Art is somewhat of an escape for me. It’s the opposite of what I do for a living. Working in transportation, often within the harbor – it’s a rough world with contacts that are often superficial. It’s hard to get an in-depth conversation going. It takes some getting used to, but it is what it is. It’s a part of what I do, but it doesn’t define me. There’s so much more than that. I need to create; I want and need to broaden my horizons. That’s why photography and art are so important to me. I don’t want to grow old and become the dude that once was a skateboarder and then drove trucks for the rest of his life and that’s it. I want to leave something behind, something to be remembered by.
Pictures : Thibault de Schepper
Words : Bjorn Dossche
Video : Visual Teasing