The beauty of imperfections…

If you had asked me 7 years ago what I had considered a good picture I am sure I would have among other things mentioned technical perfection. I have been a perfectionist all my life. It was something that my father had taught me from early on as there was never anything I made or did that could not be improved upon. It took me many years, personal experiences and challenges to learn that there is also a different type of beauty…the beauty of all the things that are not perfect, Β the beauty of the unexpected and unplanned, the ephemeral and transient. Today it is exactly this kind of beauty that I often try to visualise in my pictures and that I like to make a part of my own realm.

The Japanese call itΒ Wabi-sabiΒ and in Wikipedia it is described as

“a concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics constituting a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

It is a wonderful concept that I have started to learn about and embrace over the last few years. I still strive for mastery and perfection but photography has helped me to appreciate the wonders that are created by our imperfect selves and our naturally imperfect world.

When you see a “perfect picture” do you wonder what is behind it, do you feel that there is more than meets the eye? I often don’t and I am not saying that I don’t enjoy looking at a “perfect picture” – but it is more the imperfect ones that speak to me…the ones where “mistakes” create beauty, the ones where imperfections change a simple picture into something more mysterious. For me there are more stories in the imperfect – stories that have happened and stories that might happen…

The kind of imperfections I am drawn to for my photography are on the one side those that I can create or at least make more likely by using for example “imperfect” (mainly vintage) lenses. These often have a very soft and dreamlike look

or are prone to flares as they are not as highly corrected and coated like most modern lenses

or the glass has developed a colour cast which makes for some very interesting colour shifts.

On the other side there are what I call “happy accidents” which sometimes can be “enforced” but you have even less control over the final result. Especially since I started to use film I have got some beautiful results from “happy accidents”. One of them is light leaks created by faulty equipment or not having the film holder installed correctly or removing the dark slide while the shutter is still open or…

What I had to learn was to love them for their imperfections and not despite of them. Or as my boyfriend put it when I read this blog post to himΒ  “You are perfectly imperfect for me”… and I think that was a big compliment πŸ˜‰

Transience and evanescence show another kind of beauty – the beauty of wilted flowers, dried leaves, the changing of the seasons and the circle of life…a reminder of our own life and to see the beauty in all of its stages and changes and to enjoy every minute. I will talk more about my feelings for this kind of beauty in another blog post so remember to sign up for my newsletter πŸ˜‰

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10 Comments on "The beauty of imperfections…"

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Louis A. Sousa
Isabel I am so happy to have found your blog through the wonderful post on Emulsive. This mindset is exactly the place I have come to. I spent years chasing the megapixel and have jumped off. The wonder is there is so much to learn and unlearn at the same time. Perfection impacted my instinct and shedding it a new instinct must (and has not yet) grow. Embracing imperfection takes courage. In today’s age admirers of images are accustomed to perfection. Perfection is surreal. Imperfection is real. I will continue the strive to rely on instinct and do my best… Read more »

Beautiful images and a wonderful article Isabel.
I love the Wizards…or Witches hat on the ground in the 2nd pic πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


Your work is beautiful and I share your thoughts on imperfection. Well said.


Zheng Xu

I am deeply moved by your images with soft eternal glow and mystery. Let me end with β€œWe love the imperfect shapes in nature and in the works of art, look for an intentional error as a sign of the golden key and sincerity found in true mastery.”
― Dejan Stojanovic

John / BackEastPhoto

Really enjoyed reading your post Isabel! I think your journey away from perfection is one that a lot of us have traveled. Boredom with the technical perfection of digital is exactly what led me to build and use a collection of vintage lenses over the past few years. Practically all the joy I’ve had in the digital realm has been from “imperfect” images recently. And it’s a big part of what drew me back to film about a year ago. Same journey…further along the path. Thanks for sharing this with us. Your images are wonderfully mysterious and beautiful.