On Fuzzy Photographs

Despite raving about Chistroprudov Dimitri’s very clear and beautiful nightime cityscapes a few days ago, I remain an unrepentant fan of fuzzy photographs. I don’t like fuzzy for the sake of fuzzy, but sometimes fuzzy adds to the narrative of a photograph. Other times it’s purely a matter of aesthetics (which is, arguably, part of the narrative).

There are many reasons why I like fuzzy photographs, and at the core of it all is my high tolerance for ambiguity. I don’t need for things to always be explained clearly, or for strictly Cartesian rules to be used when judging “quality” or effectiveness. I could write a whole book about that, but why bother, it’s been done many times.

Here’s an example: below is a fuzzy photograph I took of The Mini one day when I was trying out my (then) new and (since) woefully underused Holga. The Holga, as you may know, is a cheap plastic camera made in China and introduced in the early 1980s. It’s so bad it’s good, and it piggybacks on the cult following of the even cheaper Hong-Kong made Diana camera from the 1960s. The photo makes no sense at all from a technical perspective, but I really like it anyway:

There are a couple of reasons why I’m telling you about this. First, my From the Hip — Montreal photo blog got props today in the cultural newsweekly Hour. Yay me. Yay appreciation for street photography that doesn’t make any sense in the traditional way. Yay for appreciating photographs that are tilted at odd angles and in many cases quite fuzzy. The fuzziest in the photo blog (so far) is this long-time favorite of mine:

…which you really need to see bigger to appreciate.

The ultimate victory for my fuzzy photographs has nothing to do with the From the Hip — Montreal photo blog. An extremely fuzzy photograph of mine was chosen to be used as the cover illustration for a book published by Les Presses de l’Université Laval. The book, Les Politiques Publiques au Canada: Pouvoir, conflits et idéologies (Public policy in Canada: Power, Conflicts, and Ideologies) edited by Dimitrios Karmis and Linda Cardinal, is a survey of exactly those things expressed in the title. The editors (disclosure: Dimitri and Martine are friends) wanted an image that was very “Canadian” but not iconic in a self-serving way. I think they were looking for something that reflected ideologies and conflicts, as discussed in the book, and perhaps was a bit ironic.

Dimitri found my image “Saturday Night in Canada” on my Monday Morning Photo Blog. He liked it and asked if he could use it, to which I agreed, for a reasonable fee (as usual).

I was very pleased with his choice, because I really like the image. However, when I first posted it on the Monday Morning Photo Blog back in 2006, I fully expected it to be the least viewed image there. It simply looks like a mistake; an error, the kind of photo you delete before it even leaves the camera.

But look at the narrative. What do you think of when you think “Saturday Night in Canada?” Specifically, I’m thinking “small town Canada.” If you’ve lived as many small town Canadian Saturday nights as I have, you’ll realize that gas stations, Tim Horton’s, and being a bit drunk and fuzzy-minded is exactly what comes to mind.

It certainly is an unusual choice for a book cover, but I applaud the editors for not letting convention get in the way of their choice.

Stay tuned for more! With these affirmations I’m beginning to think I’m not insane after all, that not everyone is a pixel-peeping literalist. From the Hip — Montreal will continue to feature fuzzy and tilted views of my world, and the Monday Morning Photo Blog — which is a mixed bag that has no particular theme or direction — will occasionally feature fuzziness when the images speak that way.

(What, you want another fuzzy one? Arite arite…)

3 thoughts on “On Fuzzy Photographs

  1. If I ever have a band and if we ever make an album, I want that Holga photo of The Mini as the album cover.

  2. I see it as something akin to the Impressionist abstraction.

    Congrats on the two publications.

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