6 x 8 inches
Edition of 100
From the artist:
Imperfect is a collection of images that show moments within a journey during a chapter in my life of intense realization and transformation. The experiences during this time led me to more wholly accept myself, my path and my photography as inherently flawed. The images, some of which I at first rejected, yet later came to appreciate, can represent the subjectivity of what one considers fit to include in the narrative of their life story.
This project explores the value of what we may choose to disown at first, and how accepting both sides of the spectrum may lead to a more total picture of our world. This collection is a self-published photo book released June 2019.
Grab a copy of the book here
Book review by Kelsey Sucena |
I’d say that photography, more than most artistic mediums, relates directly to the world, but that would be a false proclamation. Indeed photography, technically speaking, has no special relationship to the world when held up against cinema (which at least incorporates some concept of time) and sculpture (which has the real effect of taking up three dimensions of space and can be sourced from a range of worldly materials). Photography, despite its cultural credit, is not a privileged medium.
And yet, it is. When I look at a photograph I still feel viscerally that I am engaging in some way with a window to the world. No matter how false I can prove my statement to be, metaphysically, epistemically, or ethically, there lingers a sense in my gut that it is somehow true. I often wonder why this is?
Perhaps the photographers greatest tool is their ability to recognize imperfections, and the camera's ability to seize upon, and thus amplify, those imperfections. Perhaps the most valuable contribution photography has to offer is a sense of wonder at what is, mostly, unpredictable about the world. When we cut up time, the way that photographs cut up time, we are asking, begging, for wonderful accidents. Like ‘wabi-sabi’ within traditional Japanese aesthetics, it is the sudden configuration of the worlds unpredictable imperfections that make photographs so alluring and by extension, so real.
Roslyn Julia demonstrates this well within the pages of her new book, Imperfect. Here, sixty-four color photographs, mostly but not all taken with a 35mm Contax t3, fluctuate organically between the sharp focus and careful composition of more modernist aesthetics, and the chaotic blur of a family album outtake. Here, the images breathe organically, coming to life with the steady dance of film grain, unified by a soft peachy light which runs throughout.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Roslyn recently about Imperfect. Among other things, we talked about her desire to let images she might have otherwise discarded exist within the same space as those which conform to our expectations from contemporary photography.
“Images like those that are out of focus, grainy, I still tend to really love. I felt something strong when I looked at them, yet part of me was telling myself ‘no, thats a bad image.’ So I think making this project, and calling it Imperfect, was a way for me to accept my love for the ‘bad’ images and also shine light on their imperfections.”
For lovers of analogue photography, this desire to reclaim the flawed (blurry, grainy, out of focus) photograph is likely familiar, though rarely articulated so well. Indeed, it is the pleasure of the mechanisms of the film camera, with all of its awkward failures and strange quirks, which appeal so much to us. Why would one shoot with a contax camera, if not to court fate and cultivate a beauty which transcends the perfect?
And this is what Roslyn's book does so well. Whether it is the fat hairy body of a rusty-red moth, or the primordial call of a dusty, ocean-side cave, the scenes Roslyn identifies are simultaneously beautiful, seductive, and simple. At times, small white flowers appear smudged by the lenses soft focus, while at others forests are rendered as fleeting, the snap of a slow shutter smearing their limbs across the films surface. The interplay of these modes, the sharp and perfect with the blurry and imperfect, refuses the normal hierarchies of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ photographs. This editorial gesture is defiantly non-judgemental. In bringing these images together, Roslyn points to the subtle beauty of the ‘bad’ ones, without eschewing the formal resolution of the ‘good’ ones either. Acceptance of life and photographs with all of their complexities becomes key.
I often feel as though photography is primarily an editorial art form. This might be obvious to say but, when it comes to sequences, books, and series, the most creative decisions are often made around what to include, and what to exclude. In Imperfect, Roslyn shapes her photographic narrative around the crucial decision to include what would otherwise have been excluded, but what is also desired.
This decision works well to reflect the messiness of life, and proves to be equally solid, as when specific spaces such as airplanes and western landscapes are evoked, and fluid, as when movement and sequence draws us from image to image in unpredictable ways.
I asked Roslyn about this editorial process, and about what she means when she says that some photographs can fit within our subjective life narratives:
“I said that the photographs could represent the subjectivity of what one considers fit to include in the narrative of their life story. During the process of accepting photographs that I first rejected, I realized I wasn’t rejecting them because I didn’t like them, but more because I thought others would not. So, what I meant to shine light on was the similarities between choosing to accept or reject a piece of art into your own archive, and what we accept or reject about our past and current selves. I was hoping the statement would allow the viewer to ponder beyond the photographs, into their own narrative and think about the reasons why we reject certain things and accept others.”
When art is working well, and when it strikes me most effectively, it is doing just this. Drawing me beyond the boundaries of my own expectations and offering me some time and space to ponder. What do I exclude from my projects and why? How might the excluded help or change my work? And, beyond fine-art photography, what do we choose to include within our life stories?
Roslyn came into this work during a time of immense personal change and realization. In moving from Brooklyn to Ithaca, New York, and otherwise traveling cross country, upheaval is inevitable. How we choose to manage our lives during times of change, what we register as important, and what we shed as unimportant, is central to how we define ourselves as artists and as people.
In gently accepting her propensity for images previously deemed ‘bad’, and in presenting them to us along with those that are ‘good’, Roslyn asks us to reconsider our own arbitrary aesthetic hierarchies. Photography, because of its ability to dance with imperfection, grounds us within a world we can accept as troubled, chaotic and in motion. There is a lot to learn from this instability, and much beauty to found within it.
Grab a copy of the book here