Taking and sharing photographs is the best way I’ve yet learned to talk about the things I really love.
But getting closer to the heart of the matter – the stuff we really love – can make the doubts whisper louder, the fear of ‘not good enough’ grow out of hand.
Part of what I’ve been doing in this conversation about perfectionism is thinking about how to allow for the imperfect in photography. How to leave a crack to let the light come in.
I have learned, over time, to leave some photographs uncropped, as a way of showing process, and leaving some of my own presence still in the photograph.
Sharing photos like this did, at first, feel strange, and uncomfortable. But I can see with reflection there’s still something of the longing to be perfect in it: to capture the essence of the moment, photographer and all.
I have made a deliberate effort to pay attention to the different aspects of growth in the natural world, including images of flowers and plants that are decaying, or being eaten.
And that does get a lot closer to it: countering the classic view of what makes a perfect flower image (and with read across to what it means for us to be growing, blooming, blossoming, flowering, whole).
But still I know my inner photographer is searching for a way to capture and express that moment, that process, as beautifully, as prettily, as perfectly as I can.
Photography is not the same as writing.
Writing, for me anyway, has more movement, more energy between the lines, more fluidity. More room for cracks, and light.
Whereas photography is, at least at some level, an attempt to capture.
Each image is complete in itself.
An offering, if you like.
Which leaves me still wondering how to counter perfectionism in photography, and allow imperfections to shed some light.
The only answer I managed to come up with in the end – and an answer to the blows of the critic when the doubts get out of hand – is acceptance that photography can only ever be a representation of the moment, the object, the thing that we see, and wonder at, and feel love for.
However good the image, that’s all it ever can be: a sharing of a way of seeing of a moment in the world.
Which allows me to soften my gaze, and keep looking and trying, and learning from the world to just be.