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November 19, 2009


Yes...sterilized in the fashionable pursuit of stylistic art which pointedly rejects the blemishes of reality - resulting in an end product that always leaves me cold and vacant.

Heh, to me the yellow post is part of what "makes" the picture. It establishes a presence beyond the window; without it you'd lose the entire background as a layer in its own right.

I love lots of things about this image and see nothing 'wrong' with it. However, my first reaction to it was how it reminded me of images from 'The Americans.'

Would I have changed a thing in the photo? Well, if I had taken that picture, I would have been happy. But if I had taken the same picture without the blown out highlights, I imagine I would have been even happier.

Persueing perfection and excellence, that I do. But a non-perfect picture must not be non-excellent.

I think you are right that the quest for perfection may not lead to good art. Some photos look so "perfect" they have no life. They may have a certain kind of beauty, but I think the pictures that have life in them are more likely to be art as well.

Your thoughts reminded me of the Navajo weaving practice, which has a tradition that every rug should have a slight imperfection in it.

Your photograph may have a few blown highlights, but it is full of life and interest and art.

Thought-provoking article. Thanks.

I didn't notice that you have a category "photo philosophy". I love posts like these.

When I look at that picture I am drawn into it, I enjoy the shapes, the layers and very much the strong, vibrating tones. In order to not blow his cheek, you would had to lessen the exposure by how much? 1 stop, 2 stops? Hard to tell, and you used a small sensor camera! The shadows would totally drown.

I really love this image and it is perfect to make the very philosophical point about(against) perfection.


You are very observant; but I would expect no less from a skilled photographer such as you. And I agree with your assessment: I had to choose between preserving the highlights or the shadows, and since the shadows make up the majority of the tones, it was easy to decide in favor of the shadows.

These are the choices we have to make when shooting JPEGS with compact digicams. "Perfect" exposure is sometimes out of reach. But since my objective was an interesting photograph rather than a perfect exposure, I pressed the shutter button. I imagine you would do the same.

How refreshing. I totally agree with you. You really made a point. Photography needs to get back to basics.

Thanks great to see you post such 'heretical' thoughts :) Life is full of blown highlights and murky (if not downright opaque) shadows. I say get over it! Some of the best and my favorite photos have both in abundance. Photos like good pastry can easily be ruined by being overworked. I enjoy your blog.

Well, that´s the problem with "perfection"... I think that "perfect technique" has more to do with the ability of getting what YOU want out of your tools in that particular situation, state of mind, etc. "Perfection" is thus a means to some artistic end, not an end in itself. And the same goes for the results. Some people won´t stand blown out highlights, some others couldn´t care less.
I mean, in a way "absolute perfection" is not only a somewhat redundant phrase, but a completely nonsensical one.
(BTW, you should know better than to have such categories as "Photo Philosophy". You run the risk of eliciting just this kind of comments ;-)

I like the shot, and I don't think the yellow pole is distracting at all. To my eye it continues the repeating verticals of the chrome vent window in the foreground, the vent window on the driver's door, and then the yellow post. The only awkward bit I see is the space occupied by the car windshield. But I admire the skill needed to see a shot and take it and the expression and the placement of the hands 'make' the shot. Trying for the perfect shot means you miss the reality of shots like these.

I think your points are well made, especially in relation to so-called street or people photography. But your meaning is all but lost in a world where Digital manipulation is king and ubiquitous. Just try posting any image without commentary on any site, and people will chime in- crop it, convert to BW, flip it horizontally, burn in, soften it, clone that out, create mask, and on and on. I am certainly suspicious of perfect images these days.

In my last few posts, I neglected to make comments on your images. They are very good in general, even though I don't much go for street photography. The umbrella lady is top notch!


Obstinately pursuing the perfection and technical optimization makes you miss your shot. What exactly not happened with your here presented photograph. Tinker with your camera settings and you had missed your subject. H.C.B. called it "the decisive moment". Have a look on the work of people like him. Many pictures are blurry, over or under exposed but always heart touching and making the viewer thinking. The most important is the framing and the subject attitude/expression. The eye, the mind and the heart. This is what makes you push the shutter at the right moment. Sure you know that by looking on your photograph.

The autofocus on my D700 would have nailed that one, Gordon. ;-)

"The autofocus on my D700 would have nailed that one, Gordon."

No doubt, Bruce--but your D700 is so large and heavy there's a good chance you would have left it at home instead of tossing it over your shoulder for an afternoon walk. I'll take my chances with something smaller, thank you.

"No doubt, Bruce--but your D700 is so large and heavy there's a good chance you would have left it at home instead of tossing it over your shoulder for an afternoon walk."

I have my manservant carry it around for me in a wheelbarrow.

Many of the pictures one finds in Robert Franks the "Americans" will probably be tossed out by today's standards. In my opinion, sanitizing a picture of all those imperfections also sanitize it of any trace of life. sometimes, it is the dust, the sometimes out-of-focus, the under or over-exposure, the unwanted element(s) that make the difference between a picture that is alive and the one that is not.

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