Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

Images and Imperfections



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NOTE


Images here have been taken with a range of vintage (embracing imperfection) and modern (embracing technological perfections) lenses on mirrorless cameras. Hover over the menu item for example "images" in the top corner and then scroll and click on the lens of personal interest.

Enjoy.

If you use a camera with a crop factor this will increase the depth of field and change the focal length of the lens. The bokeh will therefore change.



All lenses aim to filter and focus light so that it hits the specified size of the sensor or film strip in the correct place. However, there are a variety of other factors that determine how a camera lens affects the look and quality of the final photo. All lenses have distinctive optical features – I like to think of them as flavours or spices, so in the end it's all about choosing the right aroma in terms of creative expression. Most vintage lenses are well built and some of them are beautifully crafted, so if used and kept well, they will continue to work for a very long time. Look HERE and HERE

You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. -Mark Twain

Often in the technological world we live in there is a rush towards “perfection” and perfect pixel renditions just because we can now create lenses and cameras that can achieve this. Lenses today are made to give extra-sharp, extra-clear, and extra-"perfect" images. Sometimes this is important, for example in medical imagery and micro-imaging.

But as humans we live not in a perfect world but in a confused world of approximations and changing colours and images. Perfection is often boring. Nature does not stay still it is ever-changing and beautiful in its imperfections. No two people even see the same colours. There is no such thing as “perfection” to capture "reality", even in choosing what to put in an image the photographer choses their own “realities” for the images they take. Sometimes in vintage lens use the subtle vignette, controlled flare, and different colours make a picture stand out among others.

“External perception is an internal dream which proves to be in harmony with external things; and instead of calling ‘hallucination’ a false perception, we must call external perception ‘a confirmed hallucination.” Hippolyte Taine, De l’intelligence (Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1870)

An early Renaissance painter Giorgio Vasari was asked to prove his mastery. He did so by drawing a perfect circle without the use of any technical instruments only his brush. Giotto’s circle was not perfect but masterful. Sports events are exciting because of mistakes, the mishaps and the struggle to avoid them. We like sports because they are metaphor for the personal struggles in our lives, the tension between our goals and our actual accomplishments. To watch an athlete perform flawlessly is nice, but to watch him fight the odds is exciting.

Centuries back, in the height of the Japanese autumn, in one of Kyoto’s majestic gardens, a tea master asked his disciple to prepare for tea ceremony. The young man trimmed the hedges, raked the gravel, picked the dried leaves from the stones, cleared the moss path of twigs. The garden looked immaculate: not a blade of grass out of place.

The master inspected the garden quietly. Then, he reached up at a branch of a maple tree and shook it, watching the auburn leaves fall with haphazard grace on tidied earth. There it was now, the magic of imperfection.

There is similar kind of struggle in all art work, including photography. What makes images “alive”, “charming” or “personal” is not just the unique “style” of the photographer, or his/her personal “expression”. It is the struggle for perfection in an imperfect world. On this site I do not wish to hide this process and only show the shiny results of my efforts. In a world of perfect shiny products the imperfection of the process can be exactly what makes the images exciting. My photographs are human (in the best sense of the word) and thus to me beautiful.

For Ryotaro Matsumura, an award-winning tea ceremony master in Yokohama, wabi-sabi is an indispensable part of his daily practice. To him, it's the seemingly small things that capture the essence of wabi-sabi (“not a full moon, but a moon covered behind clouds; not new, symmetric objects, but old, asymmetric objects”). But soon, this tacit appreciation of things imperfect transcends into something with profound philosophical themes. “As human beings — however flawed and imperfect we are — when we sit together shoulder to shoulder in the backdrop of the great Nature and bond over a single cup of tea, we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the beauty of this short and imperfect life,” he writes.

Today people seem afraid to go with the flow, we should not force ourselves to create imperfections, but we should learn to embrace the beauty of them. Each lens has its own character and imperfections as can be seen from the images on this site. I am a creative fine art photographer who likes to take impressionistic images to record personal emotions. Impressionist painters used quick brushstrokes to resemble motion blur and the bokeh we see in real life. In essence, the style itself is the impression of life we feel within and thus a reflection of more than just an image but of light, colour, smell, mood and feelings. To me photography should focus on capturing these atmospheres, changing light, and movements without prioritising sharpness - for what is the "truth" and what is "reality".

The notion of beauty residing in imperfections has been a part of western philosophy, literature, and aesthetics. Poets have written about life’s inevitable orders to break us all and the resulting strengths that calcify at our broken places (Ernest Hemingway). How the light comes through our cracks (Leonard Cohen). How imperfection inspires the spark of creation and imagination (Jhumpa Lahiri).

Even the imperfect physical objects surrounding us can become symbols of our diligence to find meaning. Thinkers such as Kant, for instance, spoke of virtue-centric qualities of objects (or even buildings) — how their beauty can be a reflection of the human virtues of those who made them or own them. Perhaps this is why the shabby jumper knitted by grandma or the scribbled love letters from our children or the broken seashell from an old friend, can turn into our dearest treasures. Because despite their imperfections, these objects become beacons of our humanity: our ability to feel, to empathise, to connect, to love.

Whenever I take a photograph a voice in my head — ALWAYS — convinces me that this is the worst I picture I have ever taken in my life. Ever. I see the faulty perspective, the wrong compositions, the out of focus areas, the wrong light angle… it is all very dramatic. Imagine my relief when I realised that these mistakes can actually appeal to the viewers because they can participate in my struggle! I have made it a habit to embrace those imperfections, they have become part of my work. I have also seen the benefits is embracing the imperfections in the equipment I use. To make these imperfections a strength. In our pursuit for mastery we have to learn how to live with imperfections, with this tension between our goals and what we actually accomplish. Just as I know that this site is full of imperfections. But I will have to live with them.



See HERE for more information on my photographic style.



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