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John Perriment

Flawed Beauty

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Photographers naturally posses a desire to capture beauty in nature and strive to produce images that display it to perfection. We all want the perfect sunrise, perfect waterfall or perfect vista. When it come to smaller details we are no less demanding. Nothing in nature is more beautiful than a flower but we cannot photograph any old flower, it has to be a perfect specimen.

The same with leaves. Yesterday I spent a pleasant hour in a local park searching for fallen leaves, not just any old leaves but perfect ones perfect shape with no holes, tears, bits missing or blemishes and, of course, perfect autumn colours, whatever they might be.

After an hour I hadn't collected very many, in fact none at all. I couldn't believe that of the many thousand now littering the grass there wasn't even one perfect specimen. That's when it dawned on me. Nature doesn't do perfection. It is us who impose false expectations and standards rather than accept simple beauty for what it is.

Natural beauty comes from being individual, unique and fulfilling a purpose. It doesn't need to be perfect, it is what it is and we should accept it. If we desire true beauty, unsullied and perfect in every way, it has to come from within. We need to learn to see, not just with our eyes but with our hearts, to celebrate by all means when we find something close to perfection, but also to rejoice in diversity and value imperfection for giving character and individuality to something as simple as a fallen leaf.

During the next ten minutes I collected loads, each with a crease, tear, piece missing, hole or blemish. None were perfect but all were very beautiful and entirely unique. At home I spent another pleasant hour arranging the leaves on my light box, both individually and in groups, letting the strong back-lighting work it's magic by emphasizing the colours and letting them glow. The whole process was wonderfully enlightening and uplifting. By opening my heart to something as commonplace as a discarded leaf, which most people would walk by without a second glance, I had extended my personal vision just a little further and travelled a step closer to finding true beauty.

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  1. hschnee's Avatar
    Great photos, John, and a beautiful understanding/realization about perfection in nature - and the nature of perfection. I have often dismayed that these days, photos of nature are expected to be flawless, and we are supposed to do extensive editing to make our photos "perfect." Your view is a much better one--acceptance of the way the world is, and taking joy in the beauty of imperfection, leads to far greater happiness. We only make ourselves miserable when we demand that the world conform to our own ideas of perfection.

    - Hal -
  2. John Perriment's Avatar
    Thanks Hal, technology is a great thing but I sometimes think that we can become so involved with what it can do that we lose sight of what's really important, recording and appreciating what really drew us to photography in the first place.