Much of contemporary photography is blessed with controlled, perfected sameness. Is it just the popularity of digital photography and its streamlined processes as Alec Soth muses in Tactile Photography or is there something deeper to learn?

I think the quandary arises from the seductive “promise of perfection” offered by the photographic tools of the day versus the inevitable distance between capture and recollection. It’s too easy to get caught up in pursuing some shared ideal of perfection at the expense of personal expression. Rather than reaching into our souls to be in touch with what we seek to express, we fetish the technology to seek promised answers to our unexamined needs.

Feeling this unsatisfying gap between an increasingly hands-off process, the results of that process, and what one was trying to convey, is the (re)awakening of the artist within the technologist. Whatever the technology, the artist within seeks ways to intervene, to be as hands-on as necessary to capture one’s feeling as well as the image.

Simply jumping wholesale on some alternative process bandwagon takes us back to where we started; imperfection for its own sake, disconnected from the subject, isn’t necessarily any more expressive. For most it’s just another fun club to join, but it can also be a means of challenging our assumptions and may contribute to the path of self-expression. The quest is to recognize and take the tools at our disposal, and to bend them to our artistic will in such a way that the viewer is able to empathize with the artist’s journey. So again and again we have to start within and free ourselves from our self-imposed, often invisible, constraints to reconnect with the artist.