Photo column: It’s not about perfect

By Gus Bode

Although it is out of focus, strangely lit and not color corrected, this photo is still one of my favorites. It marks the night I discovered my insatiable love for photography and the night I knew photography should be more than just my hobby.

My dinky little Kodak digital camera was stolen from my coat pocket at a college party during my freshman year when I was studying environmental biology at Lewis University in Romeoville. Feeling bad for my misfortune, my friend sold me his (then) high tech 7-megapixel camera for $60.

On a sleepless night a few months later, I decided to step outside into the cool autumn air. An incredibly thick blanket of fog began to fall over the university and around 3 a.m., thick beams of light darted through tree branches cast by the orbs of distant street posts. With my new camera in tow, I wandered around the campus shooting the eerily lit clouds of fog that had enveloped the sleeping campus. And there, amid the beams of light and shadows, my true love for photography was born. While many photographs exist from that night, this photograph continuously draws me back.


By technical definition, this photo is a disaster. It is out of focus, the colors are off, and there is something funky going on with the person in the middle. If this were a finished image for class, I would be severely worried about my photography professors locking me out of their classrooms for the rest of my academic career. As horrible as this photograph is, it taught me a lesson that went unrealized until almost a year later when I transferred to SIUC’s photography program: It’s not about perfect.

Too often we strive for perfection – the perfect shot, the perfect game, the perfect day. But it is the imperfections in life that teach us that perfect isn’t always best and can even send us down a path that can change our lives forever.

In class, I always try to capture perfect balance, perfect focus and the perfect photograph by technical standards. Every once in awhile, I have to pause and remind myself to stop chasing perfect and not to delete that one image that is slightly askew. This transfers into daily life as well: It’s not always about following the to-do list or staying on the straight and narrow path. Sometimes it’s the imperfect path that surpasses the perfect path we have been chasing all along.