A Different Kind of Artist







John Christensen is an artist I photographed not long ago. He is a very special artist, collecting all kinds of used materials for his art and making happenings in his house and garden. Everything he does is related to creativity. He doesn’t care about wealth, lives from hand to mouth; many people will call his life for a mess. But despite his poverty, his social inabilities, the filth he surrounds himself with, his untidy property; John Christensen has a heart of gold, he has an amazing sense of humour and is blessed with a stinging self-irony. He lives as far south as is possible in Norway, and I took these pictures while spending some hours with him.


107 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Artist

  1. Too manyjpeople judge people by their surrounding and are afraid to get to know the person. I often find those that give the most, care the least about thier own surroundings. He looks like a happy soul, but with great depth to his character. You captured him well.

    1. You are, it’s too easy to judge a person by his or her surrounding. John of course has his problems, but generally he is a happy man. Thanks for your thoughts, Carrie!

  2. We each have a gift. If he lived in upscale place and made this kind of art, people would be judging him in a different way and clamoring at his door for his work. How did you hear of him? And how wonderful that you spent time with him.

  3. Interesting! And I am put in mind of an article in the paper suggesting that the creative spirit was more likely to be present in a messy environment than an orderly one….

  4. John Christensen sounds like a very interesting character and you’ve captured his spirit in your photographs Otto. I know artists here in Cornwall who live in caravans, hand to mouth as you describe John’s existence, and devote their entire selves to their art. It’s not an existence that would not suit most of us and yes, people judge harshly but to them it is the art that matters. Not to be worried about paying the bills and all the other issues that consume so much of our energy must be very liberating.

    1. That would indeed be quite the irony. But how often haven’t we seen artists throughout time not being understand by their peers!? Thank you for the comment, Linda!

  5. Outstanding portrait … of John. Fantastic work, Otto. The main thing is that John is happy and I hope that this art will be appreciated before it’s too late – but that often happens to odd artist – they have to pass away before their art is appreciated and get some value. Love this gallery.

  6. There are many creative people who are never recognized for their works. I’m sure that you know that this kind of art is called Outsider Art. There is a Visionary Museum in Baltimore, Maryland that exhibits only artists who are totally out of the mainstream. His art fits this genre. Here is there Website: http://www.avam.org/

    1. Sorry for not posting bigger images, it’s a way to not make it less attractive to copy them from my sites. Anyway, thank you for the nice words, Lesley!

  7. I love it! I love it when people go their own way and create beautiful things, It’s a shame that people are so judgemental. I would love to spend a day or more with this artist.

    1. The tube is part of his art – of course. Outside the window he has built a little feeding house for birds. On the left side of the house is a chimney. So by proxy of the tube he can make smoke come out of the chimney! Thanks for your comment, Jane!

  8. I hope to be like John. He follows his passion, breathes Art and creativity and has a heart of Gold becoming a rare jewel in our world nowadays. Thanks for sharing this amazing man with us my friend. Best wishes to your family.

    1. In that he follows his passion, we have a lot to learn from John. But as commented earlier his life might not be the life for everybody. Thanks for the comment, and well-wishing. The same goes to you, particularly in these days!

  9. Very evocative photos. It’s likely that most of us have met people like John Christensen–the ones who walk near the edges, and frequent paths that are less traveled, who have thoughts that don’t share the quite same orbit as those we would consider “normal.” Yet, there is something very compelling in knowing them (if we truly can); they open up a deeper understanding of the currents of life, values, and expressions. For me, they may be the “savants” and that makes people like me so very dull and run-of-the-mill. Thanks for the photos and the introduction to John. Nice work all around.

    1. People like John certainly set the lives of the rest of us in a contrasting light. If nothing else telling us that there is no right or wrong way to live your life – as long as you don’t hurt others. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Phil!

  10. En levnadskonstnär, en tusenkonstnär…en av få idag som lever ett helt och riktigt liv:)
    Vad nu ett riktigt liv är?…men någonstans så måste det väl vara när individen, när vi mår bra…när vi känner att morgondagen är något värd, när vi känner att varje dag har något nytt och spännande att erbjuda…kort sagt…när vi är nöjda med tillvaron.
    Dina bilder andas tillförsikt och glädje, framtidstro…jag blir glad av dem, tack!

    1. Takk for dine vakre ord, Gertie! Jeg stemmer helt i med deg om at livet må være riktig når hver dag byr på noe nytt og spennende. Det er så alt for lett å ønsker seg bort i en annen tilværelse, istedenfor å gjøre som John: Nyte øyeblikket, leve slik som kjennes bra ut inni seg.

  11. It’s people like John who really inspire the most. To be able to immerse our self in the process of creation without being distracted by the glitter and glamour of wealth is something a lot of us struggle to do. I love all the photographs, Otto. You’ve captured his personality beautifully.

  12. Dear Otto,
    I love those people. Great that they are stil around.
    And you captured his lifestyle really well. Thank you.
    Ebnjoy the weekend
    Klausbernd and his happy Bookfayries Siri and Selma

    1. I am sure John wouldn’t mind some more money, but for him it’s still more important to live and create the way he wants. Thanks for the comment, Valerie!

  13. Very inspiring, Otto. Thank you for presenting John C. Very interesting character! Now I know it was a mistake not to visit a similar artist in Fredrikstad this summer.:-)
    Great photography.
    Ha en fin helg!

  14. I love the way you tell a story in your photos, Otto. You have a wonderful respect for the individuality of each person, which really comes through! It interests me that although Mr. Christensen doesn’t seem concerned about material wealth or a high personal profile, environmental artists in some parts of the world achieve quite a bit of notoriety and attention with similar use of what others might term “trash.” He definitely appears to be comfortable in his own skin. You know the most interesting people!

    1. That is really one thing I like about my work as a photojournalist: I get to know high and low. And John is definitely one of the more interesting persons I have met this year. Thanks you for your wonderful feedback, Debra!

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