In Praise of Imperfect Photos

In 1874 Monet painted a picture that will become very famous and  today it is known as the symbol of Impressionism. The painting was called “Impression: soleil levant“, and was included in a show that a group of painters such as Sisley, Pizarro, Cezanne, Renoir, Boudin and Monet himself had organized against the prestigious “Salon des Artists”. In his review, Luis Leroy, a famous critic, called these painters “impressionist” in a derogatory sense, and, speaking about the painting of Monet, he wrote that even a preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern seemed more accomplished than a seaside landscape. Today art history tell us that this man made a big mistake, but if we are honest it is a mistake that is understandable if we take into account the fact that the average taste of the time prevented him from considering a masterpiece in a framework when there was no detail and in which the strokes were just sketched.Besides, it wasn’t possible to think that a painting “en plein air” painted in one or two hours  could be more important than a landscape painted in a studio during many days of hard work and research of the particular. For this reason, the works of those artists called “impressionist” were systematically denied to the “Salón”, which was organized at the Louvre every two years.Thinking about a photo, we can ask what is it a perfect photo. Of course, perfection is a philosophical assumption, but the naturalistic photography has always looked for the photo virtually perfect, understood as the highest possible definition, diffused light that enhances the contrast and highlight detail, crisp, depth of field. There were even famous photographers and magazines that, twenty years ago or more, considered the sharpness as a rule, a “conditio sine qua non”.This rule applies even today, judging from what we can read on books and magazines. Sharpness, contrast, saturation, the contribution of focus: the Perfect Photo. But we can’t say that perfection is synonymous of expression or that it gives emotions, because perfection doesn’t always excite. Searching the Perfect Photo, we risk to forget that photography, as a figurative art, must express and excite, because otherwise it may only affect its author and not someone else. Perfect photos often are too clean, unreal and maybe as archetypes. These photos describe an interesting reality because they show what is not normally accessible to our senses, but without  any emotions. So the emotion doesn’t pertain to the sphere of knowledge, but to the feelings and experience. Perfection and emotion don’t always get along. Maybe the definition is wrong, we can’t give a definition of perfect photo because a photo or a picture can give an emotion that is not measurable and it is different for each one. We can say that a photo is perfect when it gives an emotion to people. It’ s a weak definition, but that’s all we can really say. 

Translated from: http://www.ormeselvagge.it/pagine/Elogio%20della%20foto%20imperfetta.htm