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Sunday, 27 September 2015

GarconJon meets Fransisco Cipriano

I first connected with Fransisco Cipriano, a Portugese surfer with a mighty white beard, through Facebook. As a fan of my 100 Beards project he got in touch to show his support. It may have taken a full year before we finally connected in person but it was certainly worth the wait. He's easily one of the most genuine men I've photographed so it was a pleasure to spent the day exploring Lisbon together from the LX Studio to Ponte 25 de Abril.

Give me your full name and tell me what you do for a living? My full name is Fransisco Cipriano, which is a very Portuguese name. I've been a geographer for the past 22 years. I used to work in the States, now I've moved to a private foundation doing more or less what I've done all my life.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in a small village 70km north of Lisbon which was not far away from the sea. I moved to Lisbon when I started university and have found it hard to stay away since thought I have lived in Brussels twice. The first time in 1996 and second in 2003 working for the European Commission.

Tell me what you love about Lisbon. It's a great place to live because you have all the cosmopolitan atmosphere that you can find in other cities but still you have all the small towns that make it feel like a village. Something that I think is really special is that you have the sea so close. You can drive and 10/15 minutes and you're at an amazing beach.

It seems like the ocean is a big part of your life, as your also a surfer. How did you get into it? When I turned 40 I realised that there were a lot of things in my life that I was missing. I had a fantastic career but I was missing a part of me somehow. I decided to make a list and try do the things that I really wanted to do. For the first time I had the impression that I my life may not go on forever. I decided to start surfing, to get back into modelling and decided to do one challenge. I didn't know at the time what it was, but in the end I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which I did. I wanted to experience the extreme. After this, I started surfing and actually surfing changed my life.

In what ways did it change your life? When you are learning something so difficult you have to take time. I started to realise that I wanted all my free time to go to the sea. I became addicted to it. I was dreaming of it. All of the time. In Portugal surfing is a huge community with many international events. Theres a lot of things that can improve our economy through surfing. I decided that I wanted to make a guide about surfing to show people outside of Portugal that we are an amazing place to surf so I made a guide with my friend. Since then I've met so many creative people that have really enhanced my journey.

Did it change your personal style at all, for example did that influence getting the beard? It's funny because sometimes people get the link but it's more fashion rather than surfing. It's more a consequence of image and changing my image to make it more commercial for modelling. In surfing terms it helps to protect against the cold water but that's it.

So tell me about how you came to grow the beard, and about the Vietnam story you mentioned earlier? One day I was buying shoes from a store and a girl asked me if I was a model. I didnt have the beard at the time and I said "no I am not", and she asked if I wanted to be one. I never thought about it so she gave me a card. I went home and I didn't pay attention to it until I start looking at TV commercials and saw so many guys that could be me. I thought "that guy could be me", like I could actually be that guy. So I went to an agency and that year I made 3 or 4 commercials. After many bank and insurance jobs I realised my image needed to change to diversify. I started seeing beards everywhere and at had a month trip to Vietnam planned so used that time to not shave and see what the result would look like. As soon as I returned I was booked for a Lisbon fashion show at 41 years old.

How did the photograph by Brock for the Beard Season campaign come about? Did you email him like you did me? At the time there was a beard movement around social media. I started noticing it first with Brock's image of Jimmy Niggles so I started researching and found out about this Project 60. After that I sent him a message on Facebook. At the Brock responded saying there was a waiting list of participants but we had a chat on Skype and then he invited me to his house to shoot. I went to Brock's house outside London shot in under 30 minutes.

How did you feel seeing the image at Somerset House? It was unreal because London is this huge city and Somerset House is this institution and I never expected to be there. To see my picture amongst all these portraits was a great feeling.

Did you get to meet any of the other beard guys? Yeah I did. That was the best bit, meeting all the people I've seen in photos coming from all over the place. From Australia, Canada, US, Norway, Italy, this big group of people there for the exhibition. Jimmy was the big mentor of the project and it was great to meet him too.

So slightly changing the subject, do you know what you wanted to be when you were a wee boy? I had many things in my head. When I look back I wanted to be a scientist mostly, and secondly a carpenter. It makes sense now because I have this enormous curiosity about everything, I'm an inventive person and I like to work with my hands. I'm still this person.

Tell me how would you describe yourself in 5 words? Curious, re-inventor, sporty, organised and energetic.

I quite like horoscopes, what's yours and do you believe in it? Yeah I do totally, I'm a Taurus with a Leo ascending.

And are you similar to what they say? Definitely.  I am very organised and methodic, have my feet on the ground. I never take flighty decisions, I make decisions when 100% sure with a very conscious purpose. I'm this type of person who has to try for myself and push the limits. I never quit. Only if I see it isn't a possibility that I quit. They also say Taurean's aren't accessible which I dont think is true as I look like an inaccessible person to others but inside I am. People say that Taurus is very snobby but I think I pass that image when people dont know me.

That's interesting as my Mum's a Taurus and she's sounds pretty close to your description. I want to ask you a few quick answer questions about Lisbon.

Wheres your favoure place to go for a drink? The park bar in Calcada do Combro. It's a bar all in wood at the top of a parking lot.

Wheres your favourite place to go for a walk? Definitely going for a walk along the Tagus river.

Wheres your favourite place to surf? My favourite place to surf isn't in Lisbon, it's in Peniche about 70km north.

Favourite place to buy mens clothes? The best area is in Chiado, where there are a lot of concept stores and boutiques.

Are there any Portuguese brands that you like, menswear brands? Nuno Gama is a very known Portuguese designer. I would say my favourite Portuguese designer.

What else is good about Lisbon? The best thing is the neighbourhoods: the fact we have 7 hills so after you climb all the 7 hills with 7 neighbourhoods, you see a vast array of different environments. One for immigrants, one bohemian, one more artistic. At the top of each one you have different viewpoints. 

The final question I ask everyone, leave us with some words of wisdom, a life lesson? I would say something I believe in, life is not about finding yourself but re-inventing yourself. You need to have the ability of re-invent yourself and face a challenge each day. I believe we are here to help each other. Look to your neighbour and see what he needs from you.