Abstract Safari

Carlos Ferrand interviewed by Julian Samuel

Carlos Ferrand was born in Lima, Peru. For the past 35 years he has worked as a filmmaker, screen writer, director of photography and he has directed several works which have been shown in Canada and internationally. He works in both fiction and documentary. He lives in Montréal with his family.

Julian Samuel: What kind of camera did you use? Any special apps?

CF: I use my iPhone, often with a panoramic app which allows me to stitch several photos together into one seamless image. I also have a Canon G15 with higher resolution for when I’m in “safari mood”. I carry them with me all day long.


JS: A tripod?

CF: No tripod. They look composed because this kind of image can not be done as a snapshot. To find the right fragment you have to first see it in your mind. Though this is true of all photography these abstractions require careful framing and exposure. All I’m doing is leaving out the ‘noise’.


JS: For artists this stealing is business as usual isn’t it?

CF: It sure is. But I call myself a photographer not an artist.


JS: What, if anything, is the difference between the two?

CF: I’m a craftsman, that definition satisfies me. The word artist makes me uncomfortable.

JS: What is the impact of Abstract Expressionism on your recent series of photographs?

CF: I first saw a Pollock when I was fifteen, in New York, travelling with my parents. I think it was “Autumn 15”, a huge painting which swallowed me. I had never seen anything like it and was moved to tears. My mother told my father, “Look how cute Carlitos is – he’s crying.” It was the only time I thought killing my mother was a possibility.


JS: Matricide and arts. This is a new one for me; I thought we were all engaged in killing our fathers?

CF: I did the Ok Corral thing with my father too. We were quick on the draw but both missed, on purpose.

JS: Does your work connect with photographer Aaron Siskind?

CF: Oh shit! I’m glad I didn’t see his photos before. What an eye Siskind has. I’m completely aware that what I’m doing has been done over and over, I just feel like doing it myself. I call it p-envy, painter-envy. I’m jealous of those brushes and oil paints. You know what Cocteau said about style? “It’s what comes out when you try to do like the others but you can’t quite make it.”

JS: Why do you call this process painter envy?

CF: Are you trying to make me talk about the word that starts with an A, has an R in the middle and ends with a T? Read my lips, they will not pronounce it. But I’m jealous of painters, slathering all that stuff over the canvas. I’m sure there is a sex thing going on in there.


JS: Why do you like abstract imagery in particular?

CF: I think my eye gets an electrical charge from the stuff. It’s a twentieth century visual awareness; quarks, atoms, cubism, and all of that. Those discoveries shaped us.


JS: Why do your walks in the street become abstract safaris?

CF: Saint-John Perse said: “I keep my eyes like two well-trained dogs.” I’m a filmmaker, a cameraman. This obsession helps keep my eyes peeled, it has become a need. Sometimes, it takes me fifteen minutes to walk a block, circling like a dog around lamp posts.


JS: How do you arrive at beauty through organizing colours on the iPhone screen?

CF: How do you describe why you like a musical composition? There are many emotions and thoughts which lack the right vocabulary.


JS: Are you planning a physical book or a digital book?

CF: There is so much out there. If I print a book which is not noticed I’m afraid the desire to keep making the photos will evaporate. I’m having too much fun as it is.


JS: So does the fact that there is such a huge volume of digital publication make you think of burial?

CF: I’m not concerned with the quantity. If you go out in the street and give a pencil to every passerby, that will not create more writers. What worries me is that nobody cares about much about abstraction just as hardly anybody reads poetry these days. So why make a book? Maybe vanity is good enough reason.


26 July 2013

Julian Samuel is a Montreal filmmaker and painter.