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  • ginnykoppenhol

Perfectly Imperfect Portraits

I attended a fabulous workshop on zoom today, hosted by The Growing Club and run by Jacqueline Harris.

Jacqueline asked us to name some of our business values. I have given this some thought before and started to reel off my usual list; "creativity, connection, playfulness..." but then something popped into my mind:


In brief, wabi-sabi is the Japanese philosophy of embracing imperfection, celebrating change and transience, and seeing things that are 'broken' as even more beautiful than they were before because they tell a story. The practice of kinsugi (repairing cracks in pottery using gold) is linked to the concept of wabi sabi. Something that's incomplete is also of value as it recognises that we are always changing and evolving. It is often linked to aesthetics and art, but also applies to our everyday lives. It gives us that much-needed permission to accept where we are in life, and know that we are always a 'work in progress'. There are more descriptions here.

I love the concept so much that I have recently set a photography challenge for participants of the 'Digital Dukes Creative Homework' Series on the theme of wabi-sabi (to be released on July via their social media platforms).

However, until this morning's workshop it hadn't occurred to me how much it underpins my portraiture. I always strive to capture the 'unique' and 'authentic' aspects of a person or family, but wabi-sabi goes deeper. I can confidently say that my photos are never perfect, and that's because I don't believe perfection exists. I don't believe there's a template for how someone should look or 'be' in front of the camera and nor should there be.

That's not to say that I don't have an idea of what I'd like to capture before a shoot, but these concepts should be based on you, your story, your personality, your likes, dislikes, talents and passions (all things we chat about beforehand). These are the things that make you you and it's all bloomin' beautiful.

A few months ago, I had a photo session with Designer Katie Birks, who wrote this about one of her portraits when she shared it on Instagram:

Sometimes I love that pictures aren't perfect, especially when they capture a moment - that completely perfect moment where you're just enjoying life.⁠

This photo is just off focus and it totally works for me and my crazy creative <3⁠

A wet and breezy photo shoot helped create this perfectly imperfect gem by Ginny.

I couldn't have said it better.

Looking through my images, I also came across this wabi-sabi moment. It's an image I created whilst being pelted with leaves.

For Sarah's portrait, I had a primary-colour theme in mind but on arriving at the shoot location, the door wasn't as blue as I remembered and Sarah's hair wasn't entirely red as it contained some pink. But she also arrived in this hot pink jacket and it all just worked (better than I'd planned) and more importantly it was her in the image.

However, I believe that wabi-sabi can be intentionally represented too and doesn't always have to happen by accident. Dried flowers are a beautiful portrayal of impermanence and change. They show a different sort of beauty, even though they have changed form. They tell a story that their 'fresh flower counterparts' cannot.

People are quirky, colourful, different, soulful. Let's capture and celebrate all of it!

Please contact me for a chat if you'd like your own perfectly imperfect photo session.

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