A Different Kind of Artist

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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.

About Otto von Münchow

Photographer based in Norway
This entry was posted in Personal Work, Photography, Photojournalism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

107 Responses to A Different Kind of Artist

  1. Some gifts come in unusual packages…

  2. Carrie says:

    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.

    • munchow says:

      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!

  3. John says:

    Interesting! Easy to pass judgement on others isn’t it…

  4. rangewriter says:

    Great that you engaged with him. I thought maybe he lived in the aftermath of a hurricane, like Katrina!

  5. Angeline M says:

    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.

  6. suej says:

    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….

  7. Chillbrook says:

    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.

  8. dalo2013 says:

    Great story and great series of photos. The 4th one stands out to me, there is comfort there, a nice kind of happiness.

  9. David Hall says:

    You have captured him beautifully Otto. One has to have great admiration for people like John.

  10. Fin fotojournalistikk, Otto.

  11. Interesting man, great project…

  12. The irony is that his work will probably be valuable someday. Thanks for sharing such an interesting character.

    • munchow says:

      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!

  13. Oh, but he is a wealthy person – or what wealthy should be according to me! Great shots, Otto.

  14. viveka says:

    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.

  15. niasunset says:

    Wonderful post dear Otto, he seems very interesting, I loved this beautiful meeting with your photographs. Thank you, have a nice day, love, nia

  16. 1cruzdelsur says:

    Happiness has different shapes and paths. He happy and that’s what really counts.
    Good shots and for a good account of the real world.
    Adiós
    Carlos

  17. Otto, your images capture the commentary beautifully.

  18. A wonderful character study, Otto. He sounds like a fascinating individual who follows his own “wierd” – I find that inspiring.

  19. 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/

  20. icastel says:

    Interesting life. Probably not for everyone, but interesting to observe. Thank you for sharing the story and the great photography 🙂

  21. YellowCable says:

    A very nice story of the person and the pictures that convey the smile of his heart. Well done.

  22. lisa says:

    What an interesting man, Otto.
    It sounds like you were very fortunate to spend time with him.

  23. Norway is beautiful country. Lived there for almost a year, a decade ago.

  24. Lesley says:

    Wonderful images so well produced that truly capture this mans spirit, I only wish I could see them bigger!

    • munchow says:

      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!

  25. It’s always interesting to see what inspires others. Nice.

  26. Patti Kuche says:

    Great photos Otto of a man in his paradise!

  27. Yvonne says:

    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.

  28. janechese says:

    I am sure that was a fascinating visit. Curious what the tube is that he is breathing into or out of, or, or,? Great gesture and expression from this man.

    • munchow says:

      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!

  29. 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.

    • munchow says:

      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!

  30. Phil Vaughn says:

    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.

    • munchow says:

      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!

  31. Gertie says:

    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!

    • munchow says:

      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.

  32. Arindam says:

    An inspiring story. Hats up to this great man. Like always your photographs are excellent. Great post, Otto.

  33. fotonita says:

    Takk for at jeg fikk møte John! Et herlig menneske! : )

  34. 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.

  35. Totally agree that we would probably be happier with less!

  36. As Rommel, one of my followers, and I have been discussing. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

  37. The mind of an artist sometimes shows in a messy outer frame. Interesting captures Otto

  38. Klausbernd says:

    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

  39. Valerie says:

    This photo story is wonderful. Many people turn their art into money (which is fine) but some just live it..

    • munchow says:

      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!

  40. Dina says:

    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!
    Dina

  41. thirdeyemom says:

    Fabulous. I love your photography! 🙂

  42. 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!

    • munchow says:

      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!

  43. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    How very special, and then you’ve brought it to us. Wonderful.

  44. coast|line says:

    Subtle portrait…

  45. john todaro says:

    charming series of images– and they all tell a story.

  46. His face and his hands say it all. You can tell so much about someone by their hands. He wears his heart of gold and sense of humour very well, just as you captured them.

  47. Love how you’ve captured him in this intimate series, Otto. He’s happy, so good for him, I say.

  48. dweezer19 says:

    There is beauty in everything. Thank you for sharing this man’s beauty with the world that might not have noticed otherwise.

  49. tomschronicles says:

    Reblogged this on Wandering Spirit and commented:
    I’ve never re-blogged anything before. I’m still new to many wordpress functions. I quite like these pictures.

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