Imperfection is Better. Period. Part 1


Rant time. And sorry about the lack of photos, but I really need to get this written and also sleep tonight. I’ll be better in the future.

This comes from one of those confluence of forces that forms a wonderfully large storm.

The mental process started actually a while back as I’ve been reading more and more about the changes in audio recording and thinking about those. We all know by now that if Britney hits the wrong note, no biggie, they’ll just take care of it in editing and the note will be dead on. Slightly off rhythm, solved also. Whatever the problem, solved in editing. Then add in some reading on mid-tone compression, maxing out the levels, and the loss of subtlety in music. Hmm…now that’s interesting. We’re losing something in music, sure we’re gaining in other areas, but it’s worth the thought.

The photo world has become very much the same. Blemish? Pimple? Wrinkle? Bags? Crows feet? (Really, why in the world do I even know what “crow’s feet” are? I’m an early 30s male. Geez.) This is just silly, but that’s the fashion world for you. And that’s how I have dealt with it, it’s not my world. That smooth perfection doesn’t effect me, I’m a journalist, I can’t do that stuff, so ignore it and move on. (Go here for an example of just too far. Geez.)


Then a few weeks back I had to buy some software to put film grain into photos. Here I spent years fighting to get rid of film grain. Fighting to get smooth, perfect images that can blow up huge. Fighting to get rid of high iso noise. (Even though some of my favorite images use that very effectively to their advantage.) I’ve got prints on my wall right now, that were shoot in okayish lighting, 800iso or higher, and are 24x39inches (I got a new printer by the way, it’s sexy in way that I can’t accurately describe without inflection. Suffice it to say, if you’ve ever seen a 73′ Corvette, it’s sexy like that, and the 73′ Corvette is the basis of all sexy. I digress…) So these huge prints look great, and I love that I can do that, that I have that option available to me. I couldn’t get prints this size with 35mm film under ideal circumstances without the image falling apart. Now I can do it under iffy at best circumstances. I love the versatility. But I’ve lost something.

Adding the film grain back into images has been showing me, smooth, perfect, clean, is just that, clean, sterilized. I’m not a sterilized kind of guy (insert joke here). I like it messy. I like the feeling, the dirt, the grime, the roughness. The best things in life aren’t clean cut, they don’t exist in an operating room. For the first time in the history of humanity, anything is possible visually, anything. It can be as perfect as we want, every time, if we are willing to put out the work. Reality is no limit. And for this, we have lost something, we have the lost the nature of the subject. (Wow, what an art bs sentence that means nothing.)

I like the grittiness of the film grain. I like the emotion of b&w. I’ve worked the last 7 years to achieve color nirvana, and now that I’m here, I want to go back home to Tri-X and Tmax3200, though without the cost of shooting film. The grass is always greener on the other side.

In sterilizing our subjects to perfection, we sterilize them of their nature, their emotion, their very value if you ask me. I like that Joni Mitchell doesn’t hit every note, her voice, her songs is no less beautiful, in fact, it’s more beautiful.


On a related, but not really note, I’m going to add in my perception of women as a professional observer of women and their beauty.

First and foremost, I feel bad for how screwed-up the world is, and it makes me happy to not be a woman, or have daughters. I love the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. I’m still trying to find some Dove products to buy just because of that campaign. If you haven’t seen it already, you need to watch this video. (sorry, Dove won’t let me embed it in this page. Bummer.) And regardless of whether or not you think you are an attractive woman, you probably are, many if not most women are. I’m not saying their aren’t women with amazing genetics, their are. Many of them, are uninteresting. An insight into the male mind (I know, it’s not about us, but I’m going to pretend for this bit), men compliment the little unique things, to other men. The mole on the neck of their girlfriend, the quirk in the smile, the gray hair (yep, gray can be hot.) I’m not saying that the usual stuff doesn’t work, it does. Make-up is amazing. A good hairstylist is a wonder. (On a self-obsessed side-side-note. I can put the wave into my hair, let it dry, then wear a bike helmet for two hours, and my hair comes out just like it went in. My hair is taking lessons from John Wayne’s cowboy hat. Untouchable baby. My hair cannot be beat.) The usual stuff, hair, make-up, etc., is wonderful, but it’s small.

I can remember seeing a beautiful woman, I see plenty of them. What sticks in my head though, that woman who shines. It’s not physical, or just physical. It’s that smile. I can remember those smiles that light up rooms. Those eyes that are just happy. I can remember them from last week, I can remember them from the early 90s. Yep, I can pull up a smile from over a decade ago. I can’t remember the rest of the face necessarily, just that smile, and that feeling. Same with eyes, same with any number of similar items. Whereas the chic in the hot dress with the hot bod, from last week, tough to remember, honestly, not worth remembering, but those great smiles though, even if just a flash, are worth a lifetime. (A bud of mine, Nick, first planted this thought in my head when I was a teen, and I have been grateful ever since. It wasn’t that it wasn’t true before he told me, it was that I needed it verbalized.)

Anyhow the point of this is, as such, ladies, you are beautiful, when you let yourself out. I say this as professional observer of this, as a creator of imagery of you ladies, and to be quite honest, as a man (it’s hot, not lecherously hot, just gorgeous. The moments I miss a woman in my life is not when I see that “beautiful” one, it’s when I see that look in the eyes, and a tweak in the smile.)

3 Responses to “Imperfection is Better. Period. Part 1”

  1. Becky says:

    And the way you feel about women is why I love you (but not in a gross way). You’re a great guy. Seriously.

  2. Josh Hawkins says:

    It’s a shame your husband is such a great guy. (wink)

    Thanks (seriously).

  3. Kitten says:

    I’ve also been reading a lot about the state of contemporary music and its relationship to technology and I think your photography analogy is apt. In both cases, too much digital tweaking creates an overly sanitized final product that is ultimately less satisfying than an imperfect reality.

    Also, ditto to what Becky said.

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