Perfect, perfection, perfectionist…impossible words. These are stressful and impossible words, but telling and hard to ignore. Remember those dreams, or better yet, stress phantasms I talked about a couple weeks ago? Well, this week’s REM sleep was quite active and disruptive. But, my one problem…I don’t remember a single thing about the dreams, except one that is. I woke up each morning, and multiple times in the wee hours of the morning, with one word perfection. Or, as much as I can recall, variations of this word including perfect and perfectionist.

What the heck? So, after listening to my dream-expert friend describe the meanings in dreams on our hike the week before, I thought, well what does this one word mean to me? It was repeatedly the one vivid thing I remembered multiple times this week. Can I be stressing out about a project I’m working on, and the idea that it is not perfect yet? Seems likely for me! Or, am I already worrying about my upcoming re-entry to my alma mater, The Savannah College of Art and Design, for MFA classes in January.

I’ll give you a bit of my school history. I actually (regularly, but in a loving way) blame SCAD for my perfectionist tendencies. I like to say that during my BFA program, perfectionism was hammered into my brain – from the exposure of my negatives to the printing of my images, to the final presentation á la Stieglitz style at 291. Those loved ones who lived with me during that time period are well aware of that streak of crazy. Let’s hope with age comes wisdom…24 years later, maybe the crazy can be contained.

Skull - Ghost Light

Setting a Perfectionist Free

So, here’s my first step to releasing my inner crazy perfectionist and setting her free. Free to make messy work. The image I’m sharing is what I call an experiment, an outtake, a test and by no means finished. In fact, it goes on the “nope” pile. But, in an effort to find the beauty in imperfection, I’m sharing it and finding all the qualities I do love.

I am currently shooting 4×5 B&W film in the dark and painting with light, so this is not something I can nail each time. It’s a very fluid, organic, trial and error process where I must realize I need to embrace the mistakes. This image, by my standards, is not good…not exactly focused where I might like, and certainly not a great exposure. But, can I challenge myself to find the beauty in the imperfection?

After scanning it, I decided to give it a once over since it will never see the light of day as a beautifully printed black and white (okay, inner crazy speaking there). What can I say I like about this? I like the trees…their spindly angles falling out of focus (intentional focal plane shift there) and reaching great heights behind my ghost-like skull. I also like the way my trusty flashlight illuminated some of the remaining autumn oak leaves. And, that bright skull…well, it does have that glowing ghost-like feel that I’m interested in.

See, I’m trying…

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill