Striving for Imperfection

There are three concepts that converge on my photography – or rather, my image creation. As with most of my thinking, all three are part of a dialectic process: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. I’m not a scientist – not remotely. What I have to say is highly speculative. From a purely scientific outlook, it may lack rigour. Nevertheless, I find these three concepts very interesting: Imperfect Symmetry, Imperfect Ideals and Imperfect Perception. I speculate that, at a very fundamental level all three have a big influence on what we know as reality.

Imperfect Symmetry I’ll start with the Big Bang, which is, as far as we know or understand, where everything started. Energy and particles emanated from ‘the singularity’ in all directions. The distribution of these particles should have been ‘even’, because all elementary particles were the same – gravity should have acted on each particle with the exact same force in every direction. Had that been the case, the symmetry of energy and matter would have been perfect – an ever expanding perfect sphere. That’s not what happened. Within an instant of the big bang, symmetry was broken. For yet unexplained reasons, there were small fluctuations in the distribution and working of these particles, so that when some of them came together, they exercised slightly more gravity than their neighbours, thus attracting more particles, and as the groups of particles congregated, their collective gravity increased, thus attracting more particles and so on. Eventually these bits of matter became galaxies of stars, planets, moons, comets, etc. If there had been absolutely perfect symmetry, all the Big Bang particles would have simply expanded evenly forever. Even if the fluctuations of the particles had been symmetrically distributed, we would have ended up with a universe which was also in some way symmetrical. Something, perhaps like this (Fig. 1) – though maybe in three, four or more dimensions instead of just these two dimensions:

Fig 1 Two dimensional symmetry. If the Big Bang had not had small fluctuations in its particle, the universe might have had a pattern a bit like this, but in three or more dimensions

Fig. 2: According to a computer programme which took ages to develop, the universe looked something like this (though not necessarily an ellipse) at about the time galaxies were being created – the red bits. That is to say, the universe was not symmetrical.

Whatever shape it might have – flat, spherical or saddle-like – the universe is not symmetrical. Physicists say that shortly after the Big Bang, perfect symmetry was broken (something to do with quantum uncertainty, quarks breaking away from the electroweak force, and hadrons developing different masses from leptons, the electroweak force fragmenting into electromagnetism and the weak force and so on – but don’t ask me). So, I sustain that imperfect symmetry is necessary for change and evolution. Imperfect symmetry is not the same as chaos, or total randomness . . . there is order, but there is also change. Imperfect symmetry is the first concept that has a bearing on my image creation.

In the next blogs I'll talk about Imperfect Ideals and Imperfect Perception and how all this relates to our perception of reality – or rather, what we think of as reality.

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