The Irresistible Beauty Of Imperfection

For whatever reasons, I’m far more comfortable with a camera that is used, than something brand new.

Partly, I like the challenge of using something that isn’t considered the latest technology, sometimes not even by 15 or 20 years.

Partly it’s because I don’t want to be wading through a thousand menu options to set anything from how many hundred AF points to use, your WiFi preferences, or which particular shade of blue you want the menu text to be.

I just want to know the basics, then get shooting on instinct.

Perhaps partly it’s about not wanting to be responsible for an expensive shiny new device and being the one that puts the first scratch on it. I’d rather someone else did this, then I’ll add my battle scars later.

But beyond all of these, I believe it’s about the comfort and beauty that comes from using something that’s less than perfect – in both appearance and in function.

My “Golden IXUS”, the Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS I used for the first month of my One Month, One Camera project, is in decent condition overall, but, for example, around the rear of the shutter button, the black paint has worn through to reveal a silver crescent moon.

The opposite end of the top face, where I find my left forefinger always settling to steady the camera, also has paint wear, the bronze finish also revealing the silver beneath.

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My grip tape mods that transformed the cameras surface from soapy slippery to glue like, also adds to the “rough around the edges” aesthetic, along with surface scratches on the screen.

But then it goes further still.

These imperfections created from using the camera become tiny cup hooks upon which to hang one affections for the camera.

We come to love the scuffs and scratches, along with the particular curious sonic vocabulary the camera uses to communicate with us, as it extends its lens, locks focus, fires its shutter, then powers down again.

These visual, aural and tactile individualities – peculiar to this specific example of this specific camera – become what we love most about it.

About any camera.

What are seen as imperfections to an outsider, in fact, with familiarity, define our new version of perfection.

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I always hesitate to mention and compare cameras and people in the same post, for fear of overly personifying inanimate objects, or over objectifying real living beings…

But…

It’s much the same with the partner we choose to spend our lives with.

Physically, their contours, their scent of their neck and their hair, the particular tone of their voice, the pattern of their breathing at night.

Deeper than this, the shape of their lower lip, how the outer curve of their thigh fits your hand, the subtle ghostline stretch marks beneath the delicious arch of their back, nature’s own tattoos, like beautiful braille to guide you home in the darkness…

Perfection is overrated. 

What is far more alluring, addictive and enduring are those small imperfections that make the partner we’ve chosen – to make photographs with, or build an entire life with – all the more precious.

How about you, how do you feel about perfection? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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19 thoughts on “The Irresistible Beauty Of Imperfection”

  1. Totally with you on this one. When I buy a new thing it takes me a lot of time to warm up to it. I do not use it straight away, waiting for the moment I get inspired, then plunge and use it all the time until it wears a bit. If it survives this long, it becomes a constant companion or else gets passed away. Same with life yes. Couldn’t agree more

    1. Thanks for your thoughts.

      I find that period required to connect and bond with a camera seems shorter if it’s already been “broken in” by someone else (or pre-loved some might say).

      I think there’s a guilt aspect too – buying something that already exists seems less consumerist than buying new and feeding the great capitalist machine!

  2. I’m always gutted when I put the first mark on something shiny and new, but once that’s done I love slightly imperfect things. Things that have some wear which show the interesting life they’ve lived. It’s what I’ve always loved about portrait photos of very ordinary and interesting people. People who’ve lived a life with a really story to tell. A story that is etched into the lines in their faces. Much more interesting that botoxed or photoshopped “perfection”.

    Great post as ever!

    1. Oh yes, I love a portrait of a grizzled old guy or a woman with laughter lines. Check out some of Don McCullin’s portaits – Google “don mccullin portrait”…

    1. Thanks Steve. I must say more recent trips have yielded very little for me, but I suspect most charity shops receive plenty of digital cameras, they just don’t display them as most people aren’t interested once they’re a few years old. I should ask at a few local ones if they have a box full out back!

  3. If I have something shiny and new it’s not long before I’ve broken it somehow or put some kind of scuff or dent into it rendering it completely imperfect. So apparently imperfection is meant to be with me. I do rather like imperfection tho. So I guess its some kind of karmic thing with me and perfection.

    1. Lisa, do you feel disappointed after the new thing is scuffed or dented, or is that point it starts to feel more like it’s yours, like you’ve put your mark on it (literally!)?

      1. Good question Dan. I do feel disappointment at first and am a little peeves at myself for being careless, but I do seem to get over it pretty quickly. Putting my mark on it is a good way of looking at it.

        1. Until quite recently, even when I got a used camera that was new to me, I would clean it and get it looking as good as possible, ready for the next chapter of its life. Then wouldn’t want to do anything to it to tarnish it.

          But discovering how much a couple of pieces of grip tape (basically like self adhesive fine sandpaper) can improve the handling of small cameras, I’m quite happy to slap it on front and back and not care that it spoils the natural look!

          Yeh it’s another way of making a camera mine.

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