Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.
It is a beauty of things unconventional.

From the introduction to
Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers’ by Leonard Koren

I don’t think for one moment that I fully understand the Japanese Wabi-Sabi ethic but I do know that the kinds of images that I like have a great deal in common with it. Much of my photography features derelict buildings, rusted metal, graffiti and peeling paint. I find beauty in the result of weathering and decay caused by neglect and exposure to the elements.

Most of all though, I love images of articles and artifacts that exhibit wear or damage that has been caused by frequent human use and I like to contemplate the many and varied characters whose hands have touched these items over the years.

These three images portray humble and well-used objects that demonstrate my personal interpretation of Wabi-Sabi.

I found this little stool in the church of Waterden all Saints; it is a tiny church in a remote rural setting that is approached by a short walk across a field. The village of Waterden has completely disappeared now and in 1854 only consisted of 4 houses, 39 souls and 763 acres, all that remains is a rectory built in the middle of the 19th century and a farm some way up the road. A church was described in Waterden as early as the Domesday Survey of 1087. Waterden church seems hallowed by centuries of devotional worship and has a profound influence on all who know it.

This weary looking chair was discovered nearing the end of its life in the church of St. Mary Magdalene at Warham in N.Norfolk not far from Waterden. This church was nearly lost as it was declared redundant in the 1960s and looked likely to be demolished as this small village has two churches only about a mile apart. Fortunately the redoubtable Lady Wilhelmine Harrod, ex boyfriend of John Betjeman, set up the Norfolk Churches Trust which has saved many churches that were in near ruinous condition, one of which was this church at Warham together with its venerable old chair.

This old catch is on a stable door on a farm where we used to live and I have often wondered how many hands over how many years it has taken to wear this groove in the wood.


Egmont van Dyck said...

This is absolutely great Ian!
I love the article of yours, it so very much expresses who you are and your views about minimalism in general.

You could not have chosen anything more perfect than the subject Wabi-Sabi to start your blog, thereby give us a sense of what to expect in the future, and then topping it off by taking the Wabi-Sabi philosophy and applying it to British history is pure genius.

By the way, I am glad you took the plunge!

layers said...

I am also very interested in wabi sabi and I have that book. I love old, worn weathered things and you have perfect examples in your photos. I like your post very much.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

These are very wabi sabi. Excellent interpretation.

Miki Willa said...

I really enjoyed this post on wabi sabi. I share your interest in things that are aged, rusted, etched with the beauty of time. I look forward to reading much more and seeing more of your exceptional work.

merci33 said...

Hello Ian
I am so happy that I came upon your lovely wabi sabi blog!!...i also have this book and am completely enamoured with the aesthetic...I've placed myself on your blog followers list as I look forward to seeing what else you bring to share...the photos here are so beautiful.

although wabi sabi is something so difficult to describe and impossible to nail down I am looking forward to sharing a studio of discovery using this topic at the contemporary art center in virginia, usa this fall.

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