What is Perfection?

May 26, 2019

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘perfection’.  One definition from Webster is:  an exemplification of supreme excellence / an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence.  So perfection is achieving the ultimate in technical ability, in this case.  However I think there is broader meaning to this ideal.

We have probably all seen photos that are extremely well done in the technical aspect; the lighting and colour are ideal, the focus is spot-on, the framing is flawless.  And yet some of these photos, perfectly executed, lack emotion or feel static, listless.  How can that be, if the image is of technical perfection?

Art is created with both a technical skill and with the mind and heart.  These two parts have to come together in the art piece to bring it to life.  If we take away the technical part, there may be strong emotion captured but it doesn’t reveal well due to lack of process or technique (think ‘ family photo way out of focus’).  Conversely, we can use all the perfect methods to create the artwork, but without capturing some feeling it is left with a stale or listless feel (for example, a picture of a child who is bored because it took waaaayyy too long to get things ‘right’).  Both of these extremes can create something to hold on to, but both also have less impact or energy than they could have.

‘So Steve, what’s your point?’  And it’s this:  to make great art, the artist needs to learn the proper techniques, the right ways of doing, and have those down so as they become second nature.  No need to think hard about the methods or rules, they just happen.  And then, that same artist needs to create works that have emotion, generate their own energy, cause their veiwers’ minds to feel something about the pieces.  Do the best we can to get the technicalities right but don’t work so hard at the rules that it disconnects the subject and makes the work stale.  A good photograph is in focus enough to be clear, framed well enough to create energy or tension (within the image not the subject), lit well enough to show mood, and captures the heart/mind/soul of the person or place being photographed.  And these concepts don’t only apply to photography; dance, music, painting, sculpture...almost any form of art becomes perfect when the rules and techniques combine with passion and emotion.

Perfection, therefore, is the point at which technical mastery meets emotional energy.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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