Saturday, November 29, 2008

The beauty of imperfection

click photo to enlarge
Perfection can be seductive. It can also be very boring. I frequently confuse women actresses and pop singers because so many modify their appearance to conform to a "type" that many men seem to find "perfect". You know the sort - slender, blond, full lips, smooth skin, symmetrical "doll-like" features. And, frankly, I find this look uninteresting.

The same applies to male actors and singers. The androgynous look is widely cultivated and equally dull and confusing. Or how about car styling? The recently revealed 4-seater Porsche seems to have elements of virtually every sports cars designed since the 1960s. In their quest for perfection the stylists have removed all traces of individuality from the body-shape. Quirks, flaws, imperfections, individuality, make - for me - more appealing looks and designs. In an earlier blog post I questioned whether the exterior appearance of Norman Foster's Swiss Re tower (the "Gherkin") in London is too perfect, visually facile, lacking an element that breaks into the simple shape and colours, and whether we'll soon tire of its easy appeal. Architects still make the mistake of excessive simplicity in the search for perfection. Many realised, early in the twentieth century, that introducing the random imperfections of trees and bushes in architectural drawings, and in actuality, improved people's appreciation of their buildings' smooth surfaces, repeated right-angles and shimmering curtain walls.

Similar reasoning can be applied to photographs. It's quite easy to take pictures of flawless subjects, particularly when depicting the man-made world, but the result is often unsatisfying. Today's photograph is a case in point. It shows a wall covered in blemish-free, brushed stainless steel tiles. The orientation of each is such that the wall has a lustrous chequerboard pattern. However, when I came to photograph it I looked for a position that allowed me to incorporate elements (particularly the shadows and reflected ceiling lights) that broke up the perfect surface. The paradox is that including the imperfections gives increased emphasis to the perfect finish, as well as adding interest to the overall composition.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On