“I deliberately took the image through a plexiglass window to take advantage of the distortions, debris, and scratches.” - Elena Mickie LaPlaca 

Mickie is a photography friend of mine here in Rochester, NY, and is an accomplished photographer. I was immediately drawn to this image of hers she posted some weeks ago on social media. The fact that she deliberately took the photo as she described in her quote above makes the image all the more compelling. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to appreciate vintage photos, and mid-century snapshots that are faded, blurred, or have other imperfections that harken back to what we often misattribute as “a simpler time.” Those vintage images suggest a form of purity, if-you-will, in how we took photos “back in the day” and how we then seemed to be more focused on the subject rather than the technical purity of the photo. We were simply present. 

Vintage, damaged, imperfect photos also suggest that we were in tune with the subject at hand, rather than how we could make the photo picture perfect through post processing. 

My comment to Mickie was this: “Often, the true beauty of a photo is highlighted by the imperfections of the image. Those imperfections encourage us to actually think beyond the obvious, and trigger our imaginations and memories.” 

The Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi” posits that there is no such thing as perfection in nature or life, and encourages the appreciation of imperfections and the recognition of the beauty of them. Loosely translated, “sabi” is a description of the patina that develops with age, and the beauty of such. 

My favorite Asian writer, Lu Xun, was reportedly once asked how his poetry was so beautifully simple, and he answered that he never bothered with perfection in their creation: He jotted down whatever thoughts came to mind. In other words, there was little, if any, “post processing.” 

So it is with all life. Nothing is perfect. The time we spend seeking perfection, the less time we spend appreciating life and beauty as it is. 

Photographers, embrace the accidents, mistakes, and dud photos you take. We all take thousands of those, so the challenge is twofold: Make beauty out of them, and even challenge yourselves to “create” imperfect photos by not overthinking it, and remember that imperfection is perfection.