Monthly Archives: February 2014

How do you find meaningful photographs? (holger feroudj blog)

How do you find meaningful photographs?

As you already know, personally, I prefer a more personal and slow conversation to the blind and fast-food paced social media world of “like”s and “+1”s. On the other hand, there’s hardly a social media service that I’m not subscribed to – you see, I have a big love and hate relationship with it. And I’m sure I can’t be the only one being driven crazy by it sometimes. The question is: Does it play its role in making photographs less meaningful? Or even: Are their any meaningful photographs on social media?

Now, first of all, the biggest problem I have with social media is probably that across fields it encourages people to seek out public attention. Public attention is the fuel of the whole machinery. And the problem with that is, that with attention, people also seek for public approval. Which is fine, really, if you just want to share news of your own cat and in turn want to see how uncle Jim’s kitty is doing.

If you’re serious about creating something, though – whatever that may be, maybe a painting, music, or photography – the risk of getting distracted from your unique voice, the source of your personal creativity, is getting higher the more you are looking for that approval, or the more you bathe yourself in public attention. The more you cater into this thinking, the meaning of what you create and share becomes less and less. I’ll call this “approval paralysis”. Now, you might be one of the lucky few who are really good at not giving a d$mn, but I felt it’s often pretty easy to slip into that “public” thinking swamp in one way or another.

As one reader of my newsletter wrote to me in an e-mail (I already mentioned this topic in my last issue of THE LETTER, from which an interesting discussion came about):

In fact, I think FB is one of the principally responsible for quality decay that affects photography today….. Everyone became a “photographer” and shares everything, regardless the total lack of meaning.


Seen from another angle, how do you find meaningful photographs? And I mean this to be a real question to you: How do you find meaningful photographs these days?



How to build your own DIY softbox

DIY Softbox that’s big, cheap, solid and foldable

Many people have asked me about the DIY softbox I made a year or so ago – lovingly nicknamed “the ghettobox” – so here it is, finally: The ultimate guide to making your own 30” softbox (that’s about 76cm, you could make it even bigger, though!), that – very important – is solid and portable. Yes, you heard right, you can fold it flat but it’s still solid. Plus: As a bonus you can also hang it from somewhere to save floor space.

In summary:

  • foam board based 30” DIY softbox
  • deeper form than most DIY designs (therefore a more beautiful quality of light)
  • materials cost: cheap
  • solid
  • big, but can be made flat and transported
  • possibility to hang it somewhere
  • optional: you can make a grid for it
  • difficulty level: easy

The design is essentially based around the one you can find here: DIY 30″ Soft Box that folds flat for travel

I liked the shape of it, which is deeper than other designs, and foam board is definitely a more beautiful and light material than cardboard. It also is more sturdy.

However, when I was looking at these plans, I had a feeling the box wouldn’t be solid enough, especially considering it is transported around, which is one of the big advantages of this one over other designs out there, after all. Another weak spot I identified is the part where you mount your light stand or tripod to. It has to support the weight of the whole softbox and is not supported enough in the original design, nor is the balancing point at the right place.

That’s why I redesigned how the single pieces of the softbox are held together, simplified the main box to only 2 separate pieces instead of 4, coated the inside with aluminium foil to make it more light effective and for more WHAM!, improved the mounting area and on top of that constructed a grid for the box.

But let’s get started!

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New Year, New Face

New Year, New Face, New Portfolio

We’re already way into 2014 – and this year promises to become spectacular in every way. As my awesome newsletter readers already know, because they followed me along the process as it happened, I’ve been busy most of the beginning of January and end of December with editing my photographs from 2013, to pick a selection for my new portfolio.

Let me tell you how I was close to burning all of my photographs, but somehow managed to reach the other side of the swamp.


I’m not gonna lie to you – the process of editing was a lot harder than I had thought.  This is not the first time I am editing my photographs, but the first time after I felt that massive shift inside of me to head in another direction with my work. More than I had ever experienced before, it was driving me close to insanity at times, and definitely left me wanting to burn all of my photographs more than once. By being confronted with my images 24/7, weak spots became more and more obvious, to the point that all of my photos started laughing at me loudly like the devil himself. Makes you wonder why you waste so much time doing photography and don’t get a “real job,” when you obviously don’t have any talent at all.

It is easy to give up at that point, but this was no option for me. I had to push through this, even if not all was strawberry cupcake and some real work was involved. Gotta keep on moving. And then finally, when I was just about to call it a day, there came the moment when I started seeing everything fit together in one way or another, and suddenly I realized which way I was headed and what I need to focus on from now on. And it felt good.

Don’t get me wrong – this new portfolio is only a cross-section of what my recent photography is about. Topics change, stories change, one chapter ends and I start writing (shooting) another one. There’s a lot of work ahead, but it’s a neat stepping stone and I’m super motivated to get out there and shoot the missing pieces.


About the process

Flyed Banana (フライドバナナ)

Flyed Banana (フライドバナナ). Studio Studiosus of a banana No. 5823


I made many small prints of a pre-selection of photographs and edited “manually” by laying them out on the floor, instead of editing them digitally. It’s different. It really is. You live with your photographs, you can’t just click them away. You get a better overview. It feels more real. Some photos look fantastic on the screen, but once you print them and hold them in your hand, they look like crap. Likewise, some photos are meant to be looked at in print and lose their magic when seen on a screen.

A lot of time was spent drinking many hot beverages just staring at the photos on the ground, feeling them, and shifting stuff around.

At some point, when I couldn’t ignore anymore that the quality is far off from where I aim at, I drank even more hot beverages at a loss of what else to do, staring at the prints on the floor a bit more desperately. That’s when the evil thoughts happened and the darkest of thoughts appeared from deep inside myself, haha.


The result

1) Portraits: First among the selections is my portrait album, which is built from two “acts”, or two different stories. I only started focusing on portraits recently, and it shows, but this also means that i still have a lot of headspace.

2) Fine Art: People kill each other over the definition of “fine art” – this portfolio contains some of my single, very deliberate pieces. Pieces meant for a life outside of the computer, really. Pieces that cost me the one or other night of sleep.

3) City Story: Just what the name says – a city story, in 3 acts. I’m sure you will see immediately how these are grouped together. And the story only just began and is still far from being finished!

Kyoto, JAPAN. 2013.

The result of my editing process is 2-3 series, and 3 portfolios (that you can find linked in the menu bar up there ↑). Compared to my previous portfolio, the photographs of the 3 new portfolios are glued together to a unity less by visual fireworks and magic tricks. I’m getting tired of merely “beautiful” photographs, both looking at them and shooting them. Just open the main page of 500px or flickr and you see what i mean. Been there done that. The portfolios I selected are instead held together more by intuition and my very personal way of looking at things. It just “feels right” to me, for various reasons. Maybe it won’t feel right to you. That’s okay. Let’s discuss it. I’m way past minding a good beating 😉


What’s next?

Next up is the major task of following the thread back into the past and dig out the very beginnings, and bring them into this new family, where they belong. Nevertheless, of course the world doesn’t stop spinning, and there’s something new to be found every day.

Oh, and I am currently working on the project I was shooting when I was in Germany, which I might write more about in the newsletter, but nothing to announce publicly yet.

Good things take while! 😉