I have worked for years, constantly assessing my own work and trying to figure out how to make “better”, more interesting, more charismatic imagery. I have come a LONG way from my early days, and of course, I am very proud of the progressions I have made in my craft.
I remember when digital cameras first came out and I was still hanging onto the film that I was so used to and adored. I saw these incredibly “perfect” images that my friends and other photographers were creating with their new gear. The lighting could be just right, the process of post production made it possible to “save” even the most improperly exposed images, offer crystal clear focus, tack TACK sharp and the colors could be manipulated to be whatever you envision! This is cool, REALLY cool. It opens new doors that we didn’t have when I first started my journey in photography. I was the last of my peer group, but I finally made the leap to digital. I was hooked!
After a few years on that train, I recall a feeling that came over me. I remember seeing some basic snapshots that some friends had taken, and I was incredibly drawn to them. They weren’t always in focus, the lighting wasn’t perfectly even but they SPOKE to me. There was something so raw, so in the moment that made me feel. It’s ALL about the feeling for me. I even remember saying how I missed just having these types of shots in my book of work. The less than perfect shots.
Flash forward to today. Having returned to my roots and making the choice to use film as my main medium for my personal work, I had to REMEMBER those nuances and let that idea of the pristine and perfect images fly out the window. Film has a unique look, and it’s not digital. You may see softer edges, less contrast, or color that is really funky as certain films can be very finicky. Could you convert the images to digital scans (yes I get all my negatives scanned) and edit them? Of course. That being said, aside from a few basic adjustments that would also commonly be addressed in the negative development process, I prefer to leave my images as is. It is part of the beauty and the unique nature of each film, AND, speaks volumes on MY ability to know my films and use them with skill. I had to let the idea of perfection (or maybe my skewed idea of perfection) in an image…go.
Now I know that I said that the imperfectness was what I did love about film, but sometimes I will see an image that I made and subconsciously think darn, I wish it was in better focus (although the focus was exactly as it should haven been), or the contrast isn’t exactly where I had in mind, even though it is consistent with the film stock I chose to use. This has been an excellent lesson for me, I have had to re-learn to let go of that urge for an image that no one can pick apart. I DO love the imperfections and the unique looks allowed by film. I love the grain. I love the unique color pallets offered by each new type of film I use, and I LOVE learning which films I REALLY REALLY love. I need to remember just WHO I am creating for?. Am I doing it “for the gram”? …or am I doing it to feed my desire to create, to continue to evolve, and to be proud of the work that I produce? 100%, the latter.
Another step that I made was purchasing an old Polaroid….ok ok, I now have two. ;-) Talk about imperfections lol…the colors are super wonky, there are light leaks and funky marks on quite a few of them, again, part of the joy of shooting with this type of camera.
I think the urge for perfection is a real thing for many people. I wonder why. Am I worried about what people will think? Will they question my ability or judge my “mistake”? I think that for me, learning that I need to create my own definition of perfect, or just know and accept that there are only differences, not an absolute perfect or not perfect label is critical. It’s a process, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t! Art is subjective to us all, and we won’t like everything we see. Everyone won’t like what I present. That’s life though, and particularly in a creative field where its less about rules and conventions, and more about vision and experimentation. Moving beyond that fear is infinitely important for me, and I would argue, for us all!!
Thank you for checking in with me again this week! I appreciate you!
Until next week…