Choosing Authenticity Over Perfection

Artists hold-up a looking glass to society; it is both our function and duty to reflect culture’s variegated, multivalent parts. Quite often, it’s the gnarly stuff of life on which we focus our camera lens, train our paint brush, reflect upon in a ballad, or funnel through whatever creative medium we see fit. Our work as artists is an attempt to make sense of senselessness, to rummage through the imperfect parts of our human experience and forge greatness. Imperfection is a wild and vast fount of fascination and inspiration. In contemporary American culture, undue and unreasonable emphasis is placed instead on perfection—from child beauty queens to the prevalence of plastic surgery. Our cultural narrative includes making straight A’s before moving on to earn a six-figure income; and, for most of us, this narrative is nothing but a myth. Completely unattainable by sheer dint of its unreasonableness. As artists, even with our boundless passion for harnessing the psychological complexity of imperfection as the subject of our work, we can be a surprisingly self-critical lot when it comes to our own craft. Which leads us to my tip of the week, and a guiding-light that helps me on a daily basis: Prioritize authenticity over perfection. In art, the hyper-emphasis on perfection of technique or obsessing over creating a perfect final product places barriers around your process; it’s ultimately delimiting. Don’t believe me? Not buying it? Below are four of my favorite artists and creative figures who defy our cultural prioritization of perfection and instead choose authenticity.

Bob Dylan’s strange, undeniably imperfect voice changed the world

Charlize Theron’s role in Monster required the actress to pack on pounds

 Leo Laporte doesn’t act like a groomed, polished news anchor; & fans love him for it

Michael Grecco (this week’s TWiT guest) is brilliantly off-the-wall and out-of-the-box

4 comments

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  1. Excellent!

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  2. so needed right now. So true.

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  3. It’s an amazing post, Catherine. I published a similar one on my Czech photography blog earlier this morning about the importance of having our photographs perfectly sharp and I ended the post in a question whether my readers/friends think focus and sharpness is or isn’t overrated among us photographers.

    Some of the answers I got speak in favor of keeping the “not perfectly sharp” images and not deleting them just because they are not as sharp as they could be. Your post looks at art and photography in more general kind of way and I wish I had more perspective like you did, when I was writing the post.

    Anyway I love it and thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

    Michal

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    • Thank you very much Michael. I just checked out your blog and it is an excellent resource of inspiration and knowledge. It is wonderful to be exposed to the european photographers and stories.

      I typically discard soft images; however, sometimes a jewel pops up that is to good to delete even if it is soft. I figure that the subject will associate more with the emotion and expression vs. the technical. Thanks for reading my blog.