Conversations tail off mid-sentence; students stop to take selfies and parents shield young children’s eyes. The cause of their embarrassment: giant posters of a man wearing nothing but a cowboy hat, a gun holster and a knowing smile. This is John Erik Wagner, and he wants to be Denmark’s next prime minister. It may not be a conventional political billboard but, in this time of frenetic campaigning before the Danish general election this month, every available tree or lamppost is plastered with images of politicians and wannabes, and a relatively unknown candidate needs to work hard to make an impression. For Wagner, a 51-year-old Copenhagener, the way to do that was to bare all.
“I’ve been trying to get elected for 10 years now, and this is my third election, so I thought I’d try something different,” he says. “Other candidates’ posters are boring – just like passport photos – so I wanted mine to surprise people.”
He adds: “It helps to look good if you want to be in government and people say I have a nice body, so I thought, ‘This is me, here I am.’ I wanted to get my name out there.”
But it’s not just his name that’s out there. Wagner’s so-called “penis posters” are attracting attention from all over the world. “I’ve had interest from China, Italy and Spain so far as well as a lot of people in Denmark. People seem to like them – and most Danes are okay with nudity,” he says.