'Perfectly Imperfect': Paul Cupido (1972)


The photographic work of the Dutch artist Paul Cupido revolves around the principle of ‘mu’: an Eastern philosophical concept that could be translated as ‘does not have’, but is equally open to countless interpretations. Mu can be considered ‘a void, albeit one that holds potential’ as in the  philosophy of wabi-sabi.


Cupido’s ongoing photographic and cinematic experiment ‘Searching for Mu’ includes traveling to Japan where in the past he followed the footsteps of the famous 17th century haiku poet Bashō Matsuo in his work ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’. In this writing, the North serves as a metaphor for our inner selves, or as Cupido has experienced it: “The further north I ventured, the more it became a journey into my own inner self. This had a profound and life-changing effect on me, as it helped me learn to let go of my own ego.” 


Cupido’s works can in character be regarded as ‘visual haikus’: they capture the very essence of the subject in an intimate form and in a very intuitive way. Photographing for him is about spontaneity, of walking outside with his small camera, breathing, playing, trusting, letting go and seeing what happens. His photos are an echo of his feeling that he wishes to communicate to the viewer, not a depiction of what he saw at the moment of pushing the button.


“I aim to engage with the world with wide-open senses. My work is about the magic moments of life as well as its inconveniences. I want to take pictures, while forgetting about the process of photography, until I’m saturated with an existential sense of life. Every step I take begins with the notion of ‘mono no aware’: the transience of everything, the gentle melancholy of things, being sensitive to ephemera.”