You might have seen a rogue Stormtrooper wandering around Durango. That’s Hank Blum, self-taught photographer and “Star Wars” enthusiast, who regularly photographs himself in the costume exploring the La Plata Mountains. On special occasions like Halloween or May the 4th (unofficial “Star Wars” day), Blum graces our downtown with this $2,000 fashion statement, custom fit to his dimensions. We chatted with Blum about the weird and wonderful hobby.
How did you acquire the suit?I won a bet through a bookie. He didn’t pay me on time, and so as a favor, he said he’d hook me up with someone who does these costumes.
Why did you start taking photos while wearing it out in nature?I’ve had people ask this often; they want to know if I was stoned or under the influence of alcohol when I came up with the idea. But I literally just had the costume sitting in my room, and I have always wanted to be a landscape photographer, but that’s so saturated in this town. I wanted to do something that would set me apart. It has clearly done that.
How do you carry it up/down mountains? That’s the most challenging part. I have an inflatable paddleboard backpack, it’s huge and I stuff everything in a certain way so it all fits. It weighs about 38 pounds. I lug it up. It’s not very comfortable, but it gets the job done. And then I spend 10 minutes actually putting the costume on.
Can you eat or drink inside it? Only without the helmet. Unless I run a straw up underneath.
You were contacted by “The Ellen Show”?I got an email inquiring about the suit and the story from “The Ellen Show.” Haven’t heard anything back yet.
What’s the coolest place you’ve hiked to with the costume?Up Hurricane Pass in Silverton. That’s where I got my somewhat-famous shot of me painting Red Mountain. I took my brother up there, who is from Dallas, and he thought the picture looked like it was painted. So I had the idea to take a paintbrush and pretend to paint the mountains. We had to hike probably about a mile. It doesn’t seem far, but carrying that backpack (my wife carrying the camera gear), with a storm coming on, made it really fun. We got hailed on.
What does your wife think about all this? The first shot we ever did with me in the suit was on a paddle board. My wife thought it was really crazy. It was in winter, and I was petrified when I got on the board because I couldn’t see through my mask. With the cold air and warm air coming out of my mouth, I was literally paddling blind. So she’s got Search and Rescue on speed dial to call at all times. But I think she’s gotten into it, as it picked up some steam.
What do you like about wearing the suit? People’s reactions. Other than that, there’s not much to like. It’s not comfortable at all. You can imagine walking around like the Tin Man, very rigid and stiff. Anytime you want to sit down, it’ll pinch you in spots you’d prefer not to be pinched.
For more of Blum’s work, find him at hankblum.com or on Instagram at hankblumphotography — Anya Jaremko-Greenwold