On the Nature, Acceptance, and Use of "Flaws"

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

I was brought up around Photographic Perfection.  From birth, I was schooled on the importance of good exposure and the pursuit of tonal excellence in the darkroom.  I saw nothing but prints - either on the wall or in books - that exhibited all the right zones in all the right places; they were well composed, sharp, beautiful works of art.  Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White, etc.  I am also a Virgo, and used to be a professional dancer, so . . . . yeah.  I take "own worst critic" to a whole other level, and flaws of any kind are not my friend, not when it comes to my own work, anyway.

But what is a flaw?  In my former life as a performer, I knew good and well that the audience would never notice a mistake; if I made one, the only person it really mattered to was me.  It's no different with photography.  Sometimes a poorly exposed negative can be a disaster, but not always.  And what about light leaks?  There are cameras who wear them as a badge of honor, and who make them on purpose.  Expired film has a beauty and character all its own, and sometimes, what half of my brain would consider a "miss" ends up being right on the mark.  I just didn't know it yet, or, to quote Pee-Wee Herman, "I meant to do that."  The challenging part is learning to let go, and being okay with something that might not be technically perfect.  Maybe it wasn't what you were shooting for, but maybe that's good!  

Canonet, Kodak Eastman 5222 Double X

Canonet, Kodak Eastman 5222 Double X

If you can separate yourself from your own sense of judgement, and from your original intentions, you can find beauty in a "flaw."  Sprocket hole light leaks?  Disaster / not a disaster.  When I first saw this photo, I thought DANG.  I was so excited about these shots.  I jumped up from the table where I was eating a late dinner and chased this New Orleans wedding party down the street, but look at this - the film is totally messed up, and argh.  Then I looked at it again, another day.  I saw the movement.  I saw how the image ended up looking like a still from a movie, like if you fell asleep and woke up to find the old reel-to-reel had gotten out of whack and stopped at this moment, and there was an instant from that day frozen on the projector in front of you like it was meant to be.  

Canonet, Kodak Eastman 5222 Double X

Canonet, Kodak Eastman 5222 Double X

Canonet, Kodak Eastman 5222 Double X

Canonet, Kodak Eastman 5222 Double X

Not too long ago, I got to photograph a sparring event at a local boxing gym.  I was super excited about it, and rammed my bag with every piece of gear I thought I might need.  The light wasn't bad; I metered (for once, since this was important) and opted for a slower shutter speed so I could get more depth of field.  

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

It turns out that 1/60 is way too slow for people who float like butterflies and sting like bees.  In my head, I was making images of all kinds of intense, frozen moments, with wide eyes, grimacing faces, gloves meeting flesh.  Instead, I ended up with a bunch of poetry in motion, a kind of blurry ballet.  And you know what?  This is way, way better than what I intended.  

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Nikon F, Kodak Tri-X

Texas photographer, Amy Jasek, is obsessed with all things film. Connect with her on ,

Amy Jasek

Texas, USA

Photography is a family tradition. I was raised in the darkroom, and on the fine art work of photographers like Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, and Ansel Adams. My father took me photographing with him regularly and taught me how to look at light. He gave me my first camera (an Olympus RC); I made my first black and white print (standing on a stool!) at the age of 7. There are some gaps in the timeline of my photographic journey, enforced upon it by life in general, but film and cameras are one of the few things that have remained constant every step of the way. For me, photography is all about moments and truth. I like to work in black and white so that I can highlight those two things. The truth, form, and simplicity of the moment is presented; I feel that removing the color from the scene brings these things out. I believe street photography is a little window into the heart and soul of a place, a time, and the people in it. These days I tend more toward street portraits and interaction with my subjects, but my drive for capturing the candid moment remains the same.