I’m not the world’s worst photographer. I’m not exactly a professional either. My camera is usually on “auto” and it’s rarely that I fiddle with settings. Start talking about aperture or shutter speed and my eyes literally glaze over. I do enjoy snapping pictures though, so a few years ago, in an effort to try and up skill from “basic” to “just above basic”, I enrolled in a short photography course. At the beginning of the workshop we were required to submit some pictures that we had taken so that our previous work could be compared with what we were producing at the end of the course.
Below is the picture I submitted. I had taken it while I was in Alaska (as usual, for work). I had been at the Mendenhall Glacier when there had been a sudden downpour, leaving everything – including me – pretty soaked. I am not sure whether it is at all possible for the air to be any clearer in Alaska, but it seemed as though everything was crisper after the rain. I used the word “crisp” specifically – it was so cold that everything was starting to freeze (or maybe it was just me – I was crackling as I moved…). As I was walking back to the bus with what I imagined to be hypothermia setting in, I came across this battered little flower so I snapped the frame.
I absolutely love this photo and based on my dodgy grasp on the finer points of photography I’m pretty proud of it too, therefore I was quite shocked when the lecturer told me the picture was no good. The reason I was given was, “one of the petals has a big hole in it. People prefer to see something that is undamaged and perfect.”
Perfection though… It’s really quite a ridiculous thing, isn’t it? Who has the final say on whether something is perfect or not anyway?
Sadly it seems as though “perfection” doesn’t just apply to what people prefer to see in photographs. The entire world seems to be constantly striving for it. Everyone wants the perfect job, body, spouse, child and house. It extends to holidays, weddings, parties and myriad other events that we are part of. They’re all searching for the perfect life without really knowing whose criteria their search is supposed to be based on. If you don’t think this is true, just browse all the carefully curated profiles on social media where everyone seems determined to present an unrealistically “perfect” version of their lives to the world. (Come on – you can’t deny this isn’t true, because if you’re really close to these people you know the kind of crap they’re actually going through and it’s never reflected in what they post online…).
Why can’t we all just be happy with the way things actually are?
I don’t think that it’s because we fail to grasp the fact that life is not perfect, but rather that most people seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them. Realistically we have very little control over anything and the more we try to force things to be perfect the less so they become. Ironically we’re usually far too busy focusing on a minor imagined blemish to notice how great everything actually is.
When I look at my flower pic, if I don’t focus on the hole in the petal there is still a lot of beauty to be seen. In fact, I don’t even need to look very hard to see that there is still more flower than hole. Perhaps if I had tried harder I could have found a less damaged specimen to take a photo of but there are already so many pictures of perfectly symmetrical flowers. It’s really the hole that makes this particular one unique.
Hang onto your hats folks – things are about to get really touchy-feely and metaphorical up in here…
This less-than-perfect bloom is much like everything in the world – somewhat damaged but pretty special none-the-less. Perhaps it’s really imperfection that makes things perfect.