Stay Sharp?

Sharpness! 160425 - Fomapan 100 - Olympus XA2 - 37A concept that has taken a very important position in modern photography. Never has anything given us as sharp pictures as modern digital sensors. Never have the lenses been as sharp as today…. sharpness, so the photography businesses make us believe, is the most important aspect of any photograph.But is sharpness all it takes to make a good photograph?

Isn’t it possible that out of focus or shaky photographs may convey something that, despite their physical defaults, makes them great (or in my case, acceptable) photographs?

Notably japanese photographers apply the concept of wabi-sabi, the beauty of imperfection to their art. It’s rooted in their tradition, nothing perfect can be truly beautiful.

The street photography masters, one of the notable exceptions being of Bruce Gilden and his flash-in your-face technique, do not always produce sharp images, but always meaningful ones – at least those that are well known.2But from there to deliberately blur your pictures…

I prefer to be surprised when I develop my film and perhaps see something good that makes a meaningful photograph without being clinically sharp. Others just get thrown out…151231 - Ilford HP5+ - Olympus XA2- 018Blurry photos may convey a sense of movement, a dynamic that is absent from sharp, precisely focused photos. But it is no excuse for botching your photography and just get by calling it art.

Like any very strong or invasive technique it must be applied with a certain measure. It can work with certain images but will completely mess up others. It can make the viewer wonder, make him look closer and thus make him reflect on your photograph.27Blurry pictures should just not be an excuse for your botched photographs!

What is your opinion about this? Don’t hesitate to comment!

And as always, thanks for visiting!

15 thoughts on “Stay Sharp?

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  1. While sharpness and blur are slightly different things I suggest the issues is whether the image “works” and that depends on its context and meaning. But I agree that sharpness especially now we can achieve it with digital is no longer the ‘goal’ except for equipment manufacturers and of course it is not what makes a photo a good photo except in the eyes of Joe Public. As Cartier-Bresson said “sharpness is a bourgeois concept” – or rather a capitalist concept.

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  2. The last one is also my preferred image but the second is a great example of combining the motion blur and stillness. I’d agree with you Frank and well added Brit Street

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  3. Interesting point and follow up discussion. I think the additional point of sharpness as a “bourgeois concept” is clearer today with the advances in auto focus and tracking tools. Now having a tack sharp image shows that the camera was expensive (in the same way that bokeh is used for the sake of bokeh to show that it wasn’t an image shot on a smartphone).
    A personal reflection (not from shooting film) for a while I shot at 1/30 for everything and really enjoyed the resulting images that had motion from slight movements in the hand or figures who were moving faster than others. That element of motion helps to show something that a frozen image can’t (the reverse is obviously true too). I wonder if that is true of out of focus images too, the final image really does have some element of surrealness that makes it stand out. It reminds me of someone’s work but I can’t think who…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Chris, and yes we have to differentiate between motion blur and out of focus pics. Motion blur can invoke movement, dynamic whereas out of focus images only work if the subject is strong enough.

      The last picture might remind you of some works by Daido Moriyama… not that I want to compare my crap with that master of photography!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Pavel, just to be sure there’s no confusion here. I am not comparing my photos to any of Daido Moriyama or other masters. I would not presume to do that! 😉


  4. interesting concept of wabi-sabi – thank you for this information
    i have a few posts with the title – “don’t delete your pictures” and somehow talk about the same – perfection is not a must. imperfection is much more interesting
    great examples here !


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