Photography – Technique vs Expression

With the release of the Nikon Z mirrorless cameras, it got me thinking about the relationship between technology and our search of perfection.

There is nothing so exclusive so cold as perfection. Photography is a technical medium and over the years, the cameras have gotten more sophisticated and with the released of even more sophisticated cameras over the years, it tends to push us towards perfectionism. Concentrating on the technical aspect photography can distract from the real purpose of photography. What is the real purpose of photography?

Photography has always been to communicate the life of human experience. Perfection sometimes can hinder this. It is much easier to invest in equipment and create technically perfect images without really telling a story than to take a leap into the unknown.

Perfectionism over rules instinct and quality when combined with learning and experience, that provides the foundation for new ways of seeing.

I’ve joined many groups online and became quickly bored and disillusioned. Most of these groups discussions centre around cameras, photoshop techniques, lenses and their various properties and not much else. Magazines are not any better, which body starts exhibiting noise at ISO 3200 or 6400. This usually follows with many more questions but no substantial questions and we all miss the point of what it truly means to own and use a camera.

What is really missing from these boards are discussions about ideas, abstract concepts which these sophisticated machines were created to capture. It has been said that these technical obsession is a displacement activity from the hard work itself. The hard work being coming up with good work.

Please do not think that I am not challenged by the existence of better cameras. Less than a week ago, I was considering trading my gear for something better until I asked myself the most important question of all : “Can my current camera help me create great work?” – the answer to my question was “YES” so I changed my mind.

The work of any artist is hard and especially when we know that our own work falls short to the standard that we set for myself or to those we admire so the next best thing is to concentrate on the techniques instead.

One thing we need to learn (this speaks a lot to myself) to accept imperfection due to the limitation of the medium. Instead of aiming to obtain tack sharp images or learning all the composition rules that exist, we should learn to fully engage with the subject. A way to see our own imperfect selves in objects of art and in a way contemplate our own existence.

One of the ways that I’ve started to embrace the way I see things and all the imperfections that come with it is by going back to using film. My 35mm camera being my new best friend along with a pinhole. I’m embracing film’s limitations along with imperfections and grains.

 

Optical perfection is very seduction especially to some of us that started in the digital era. But we must ignore this constant need/aim for perfection otherwise it will enslave us and exploit us. Truth and beauty lie not in how others would have us view the world but in the knowledge of our own hearts and living according to own creative light.

There has to be a balance. On one hand, we cannot take a stand against the benefits of developing technology, nor can we place all our trust in the latest technological gem.

Perfectionism is the voice in our head that can speak only of quantities and parameters. We must find our own languages and ways of communicating the language of existence. This can only be found in our experiences and these often lack perfection. We must reach in our hearts and leave perfection to those who rather count than feel.

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