Tag Archives: the letter

Art is a Lie

Art vs. Craft

This is an excerpt taken from my last LETTER – my monthly newsletter about visual arts, photography and Japan. If you’ve already subscribed to it you’ll know this, but still feel free to discuss in the comments 🙂

 

Did you ever think about what the difference between Art and Craft is? Can craft be art? Does art require craft? And where does photography fit into this? I’ve been thinking about that after listening to a conversation on On Taking Pictures that contained more thoughts than fit easily into my brain. I’m rather slow at “getting” things.

Emotion – one key element?

Photography arguably is a craft, as in you have to use the camera’s settings skilfully to get a decent picture. But then, it also isn’t because many cameras allow you to merely press a button to get a picture, and I don’t see any craft in that. One can carefully craft a picture by taking all the settings in their own hands, and by crafting the composition etc. – or, on the other hand, one can come up with a wonderful photograph with a point and shoot camera, without crafting anything. And we’re not even including printing in the discussion here.

So, what is the difference between craft and art? Both, a well-crafted as well as a point-and-shoot’ed photograph, can be art, and both can not be art. A well crafted photograph, tack-sharp, perfectly exposed and composed, maybe using the latest gear, but that I still would never consider “art” is what I see more as a rule than an exception these days. It satisfies gear affectionados, but doesn’t really stir any emotions. “Emotion” – one key element of art?

Intent/Vision

Another element I thought important for some time might be “intent,” “vision,” or some kind of concept: “What do you want to say?”
But then, I know many renowned art photographers – especially Japanese – just shoot and do that thinking/intentional part much later. And many others come up with meticulously planned concepts for a photograph and go through greatest efforts to produce an image that often seems way too planned out, way too conceptional, and rather tedious.
And then there are big artists like Magnum photographer Antoine d’Agata, who is very conscious about wanting to eliminate every single bit of consciousness when creating his photographs, numbs all thinking with drugs, gives his middle finger to all technical aspects of photography and acts from a very primal, unconscious place.
Antoine’s exhibition is on in Tokyo right now, by the way, and I admit that if I hadn’t kind of “befriended” him over the course of the last year, and as a consequence hadn’t learnt about his backstory as well as hear him talk about his work, I would have easily disregarded his photography as artsy-fartsy merely controversial “stuff” without much to it. I still don’t get my head around his photographs, but I know now that I don’t have to – and that they aren’t digested easily, but instead encapsulate something rooted very deeply.

Being called an “artist”

So, you see, I still can’t get my head around this whole arts thingy, and that is probably also the reason why I feel very uncomfortable with people calling me an artist – which sometimes happens – God knows why – and which always makes me feel pretty phoney.
Being called a craftsman is nice, because it implies you do something very well. What does being called an artist imply?

Tell me, will I ever have to understand all that artsy stuff to be able to create something that can be called “art” by someone some time and NOT make me feel pretentious? I guess you’ll only know after the act. Or what do you think?

 

Addition (July 3rd): Beautiful follow-up/write-up on this ongoing conversation by Kristopher Matheson. Well, I think we arrived more or less at the conclusion that it does not matter what is art when making your works, but that conclusion comes with a big chunk of content hiding under the surface, iceberg like.

 

 

THE real LETTER

What is The real Letter?

THE real LETTER is my free original newsletter about visual arts and photography, handwritten and spiced up with prints of my photos. Yes, you heard right: ink on paper, and prints to hold in your hands, delivered by your local postman. Because it is different from seeing it on your screen.

So, why am I doing this?

When I started out writing my newsletter – THE LETTER – I naturally wrote each month’s issue by hand before typing it up – and I still work that way for almost anything. Why? Guess I’m the kind of person who finds it stimulating to write with ink and paper in a cafe or somewhere, while observing people around me (and also, I don’t have a laptop, so I don’t have much choice have I, haha). There’s something about that tactile feeling that stimulates the mind. Also, I just can’t think properly in my tiny Tokyo apartment, which is as big as my bed x2. Actually writing you a letter that I’d type up later also helps in giving the newsletter the feel I want, I guess. It’s not called THE LETTER for no reason!

After issue #02 (that’s after the 3rd issue, if you count the prologue) I realized that I end up having these real letters lying around – and unsent letters always evoke that miserable feeling in me. A letter unsent is an extremely lonely thing, I could write books about it, But I digress. I thought, even if I can’t send a real letter to everyone of you, at least I can send it to one of you each time I write it, so you can have the real experience in your hands.

Problem is: How to find/decide who is going to get THE real LETTER – and do people actually give a damn? That’s where I need your help, because even more miserable than a unsent letter is a letter without response. So far I thought about handling it like I wrote below, but what do you think?

How do you get your real letter?

If you’re already a subscriber of THE LETTER – my monthly-or-so newsletter about visual arts and photography – you’re automatically in the drawing box. I will send you a mail and let you know if you’re the lucky one before I send out the e-version. Even if you’re not the one, there’s a fancy scanned ebook pdf-version in the newsletter.

If for any reason you’re not subscribed to THE LETTER and don’t want to, then there’s still a chance – I am thinking about special events, or those who help spread the word, and so on.

Want to write your own letter?

Who knows, some of you people might be crazy enough to write a letter themselves and add some photos, drawings, sketches, doodles, whatever. It’s fun to not be restricted by a keyboard! I’d love to read it, and share it with everyone, if you want. Write me a mail if you are interested in contributing.

 

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?

 

 

http://holgerferoudj.com/newsletter

NEWSLETTER

Who doesn’t love to receive a letter? I LOVE letters, both writing and receiving them. Which is one of the reasons why I decided to release a monthly-or-so newsletter in 2014: THE LETTER

To celebrate the launch I’ll be sending out the next best thing, postcards with my prints, until end of January to the first 50 people or so – I’ll send out the details in the actual LETTER later this month: holgerferoudj.com/newsletter

So, what is this all about?

Now, it is asked quite a lot to surrender your email address to someone. I know, I know. Especially at a time of sensory overload, when like every single shop or business spams you day by day with special offers – so why did I want to start writing these letters? What can you expect from signing up to this newsletter that you can’t already find on facebook, Google+, twitter or my website blog here? Why would you care, and what’s in it for you?

Well, let me give you my point of view: I love photography. I love the visual arts. Not one single day passes without me shooting photos, looking at photography, illustrations or paintings and discovering something that inspires me. Now, this part of me, you might know already.

What you might not know is that I also love writing with pen and ink (I am, in fact, writing these words here on real paper right now… well, before transcribing it into my computer). I like handwritten letters and cards, it feels more intimate and human. I hate the telephone – I love looking people in the eye when talking about something. Imagine a room with a fireplace, and the cracking of firewood in the flames, sitting with some people you know and talking as you please, in private. This intimate feeling is what I love and long for. And transferred to the digital world, I can’t get that on facebook or Google+ or twitter, and not even on this website – as much as I love these for what they can do.

A newsletter, however, is more like it. In fact, it doesn’t even feel like writing you some random stuff online – no, for me this here right now feels like writing a personal letter to a friend, nothing “published” on whichever platform, just a letter directly into your mailbox. For you, from me.

This way I can tell you many things – personal, too – that I just wouldn’t feel comfortable publishing. Things you’ll likely find more interesting. Or the one or other anecdote I pick up on my journey. Or some of the wonderful experiences I make at my Magnum Photos part-time job. This is like our closed community, we are pen pals, this is our private lounge where we can hang out, our living room with fireplace.

Postcards?

I’d love to send this newsletter to each of you as a handwritten letter – but, alas, I only have so many hands, and so much ink. What I want to do, though, is start the new year by sending you at least a post card with a print of one of my photographs glued to it, and some words from my pen.

Once I’ve figured out the logistic details I will post them in the first issue of THE LETTER later this month, and to every new subscriber until the end of January. If you’ve already signed up at holgerferoudj.com/newsletter then don’t worry – you’ll get the details into your inbox.

First come first served!