Lomo In-Depth: Beauty in Imperfection


In an age where digital cameras provide more room for trial-and-error, practicality, and perfection, the revival of analogue cameras among photographers, artists, and hobbyists marks a shift of the standards of beauty in the art world.

Imperfection as a beauty standard

Credits: jabuka, merder & atria007

Analogue cameras are alleged to be hard to use and costly. Minor flaws in camera settings or a bit of mishandling can already jab big blows on the appearance of the photos. They cause unrealistic result and none of the high-resolution WYSIWG photos that the contemporary age is used to with the digital camera.

But now, almost all notions of perfection in society are being challenged. Aesthetic standards vary from era-to-era, and the rest are hoping for the celebration of flaws. Photography is no exception. In fact, there are numerous reports of digital users taking interest in old gear. Fast Company tells the unique story of Lomography, an old-soul thriving within the fast and digital. The company’s aesthetic image and principles managed to keep itself afloat. Its consumers, many of whom are artists, have to the same school of thought as Lomography.

There seems to be more room for the appearance of leaked lights, cases of being underexposed or overexposed, unwanted blurs and colors, and grainy textures in photographs now more than ever.

Wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic

Credits: sjmpretty, arurin & duality

However, the whole concept of imperfect and rustic beauty has continued to exist since the ancient times in the Far East. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, or ‘imperfect and transient beauty’ is an aesthetic principle that the contemporary art world has started to embrace. The Victoria & Albert Museum describes wabi-sabi as “a complex aesthetic [and] a combination of rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness (wabi), together with the beauty and serenity of age, where an object acquires a patina or repairs due to prolonged use (sabi).”

The concept also emphasizes spontaneity and naturalness. The Japanese have used this concept in their handicrafts, modeling, poetry, and even music.

Credits: mot11, inine & gakurou

Applying the wabi-sabi to photography with the use of analogue cameras seems like a natural fit. As said before, films are now thought as being purely for aesthetic values. What does a leaked, underexposed photo tell a viewer? How does it differ from a perfectly staged image? The wabi-sabi would read in to those leaked lights and discoloration, analyze the flaws to create the otherworldly story surrounding it. Art and beauty have always been subjective – the imperfect and the natural are slowly dominating the high-tech world. Film is not dead.

If you are looking for more essays from our Lomo In-Depth series, read on about documenting milestones and The pull of shock photography.

written by Ciel Hernandez on 2016-02-20 #lifestyle #japanese #analogue-photography #wabi-sabi #lomo-in-depth #art-principle

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