Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Perfection


My contribution and confidence has been the casualty of weighing varied opinions of perfect and imperfect.

Some weighing has lead to betterment, development and growth while others diminish and quiet my art so much that I didn't have a vision anymore. How does this happen? It happens because we let our the client, the industry, the people we admire from afar dictate to us through their versions of perfection. We listen to voices, we read statements, we see what sells and we want in. We want to be accepted, we want to be heard and embraced and appreciated.

If Carolynn McConnell's Art History class taught me anything it is this- art and artist who work independently of these voices were rarely recognized in their time. They waited for an embrace. I do not intend to compare my work to that of the greats, not at all. I simply think their stories can teach us something about patience. As parents, friends, gardeners, photographers, writers, workers, children of God.

We have the internet now allowing us to connect with people who can, do and will recognize us. It's true. If you doubt that in yourself, look no further than THIS terrible painting or some other example of terrible art that is getting positive attention. People dig this guy, but those are not my kind of people and I'm guessing they are not yours but you get the picture, right?

Let's not sell ourselves short in seeking affection, appreciation and embrace. Have you seen how pathetic and sad Thierry Guetta is in Exit Through the Giftshop? We can win that embrace by flashy plagiarism on the laurels of those we admire, by creating "perfect" images that can be exploded on a 20x32 canvas or we can earn it through the wonderful, occasionally excruciating process of editing. Edit the hell out of yourself but do it for you.

These things take time. I have been shooting professionally for 3 years and as an amateur for over 10 and I am only now beginning to realize how radically different what I crave to shoot is from what I have been shooting, what I have shot and what I will not shoot anymore. I have a long way to go, but for now I just feel fortunate for the realization below.

Let's think before we shoot. Let's ask ourselves what we are saying yes to. Are we doing jobs so the client will like us? Are we angling things like that because we equate that with perfection? Is that perfection your version or someone else's? Are we throwing out the rules of proper exposure and composition purposefully or is it because we see something of perfection in it? Is perfection even important anymore? Are we primping and arranging in accordance with our version of perfection or in accordance with popular vote?

I'll answer that last question. No, perfection is not important anymore. Not to me (see how personal this is?) My old version of perfect is no longer relevant. If the perfected image competes with something genuine and real its getting killed. That might look sloppy for a while and I might backstep some because we are, afterall, great creatures of comfort and habit. But I can't be comfortable and unhappy with my work anymore and therefore I can't seek perfection anymore. Not only is perfection not possible- the seeking of it is repulsive to me, for me.

Trying to be perfect and thinking that perfect is the only quality of value, the only way to be embraced and accepted is so natural to me that I have thrown the unplanned, genuine wonders of life away with the bathwater. I have lost something that I need back. I am talking about my version of perfect. Please know that. I don't know what yours is and I am not into criticizing it. Except for that McNaughton art, I hate that painting.

Here are some pictures-speak-a-thousand-words examples:

Great work Ash! Everyone is visible, everyone looks happy, the light is right, the positions are right. Ah yes, that is "perfect". THAT is what the client wants. I'll give it to her because it fulfills something I know she wanted. We communicated about it so I am clear.
Even better! Sean is reaching out to his only nephew. Oldest Juarez born to youngest. He is tender and sensitive and I got it. This image is wonderful and dynamic and captures the human interaction I want to capture. Will my client like it? I am sure she will but even if she doesn't now, she will. When the time of family photos is over. When Cohen walks and then marries, when Sean is far away or has a son of his own.

Do I prefer the second photo to the first?? Yes. I do. So much. I want this to be my new vision of perfect. Not all images should look like the first, nor should they all look like the second but I can't deny the fact that I connect with the second more can I? No, I can't. These human interactions, these real moments. Will all of my clients like it? Certainly not. I'll get edited and that is okay.

I want to edit mindfully not just perfectly. I want my contribution to my clients to be authentic and genuine.


whitneyingram said...

I really liked this. It is so easy to care what other's think. It is so easy to think what they care about matters. To you. To your soul.

I think it is about having integrity. Being true to yourself.

Anna Alyse said...

Especially in your first paragraph- you remind me of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I hope that's as much of a compliment to you as it is coming from me, because really, I've never thought to tell anyone that, but he is one of my favorites.

And I love this:

"I have thrown the unplanned, genuine wonders of life away with the bathwater."

And a lot of things about this. Especially the whole thought and concept behind it. Your intelligence glitters and I admire you.

olivia said...

again—i think i get this, but then something happens, like your photoshoot/incredibly-worded thoughts to prove that i don't actually get it.

thank you, thank you. for everything. and! you're right. sean IS tender and sensitive. those are two of the characteristics that best describe him. you got it.