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.