Beauty in Imperfection


Wabi Sabi is a way of seeing the world that is at the heart of Japanese culture.
 It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious.
– Mark Reibstein, Wabi Sabi


Tranquil simplicity,
rustic elegance,
imperfect beauty…these are qualities that wabi sabi embraces.
Wabi Sabi:  the Art of Everyday Life,  Diane Durston


Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 2010India

Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else.
Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment
given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view.
Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.

–  Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers



It is only with age that you acquire the gift to evaluate decay, the epiphany of Wordsworth,
the wisdom of wabi-sabi: nothing is perfect, nothing is complete, nothing lasts.
– Paul Theroux


00779_03, Morocco, 03/1988, MOROCCO-10165. A decorative door.Morocco

The beauty of wabi-sabi is rooted in modesty that is elegantly perceived.
The aesthetic pleasures of wabi-sabi depend on attitude and practice as much, or more, than on the materiality itself.
– Leonard Koren, op.cit.

_SM15987, Havana, Cuba, 2010, CUBA-10021final print_UrbanArt'12Havana, Cuba

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins
quoted in the Daily Good


00408_ 10..Cape Town, Capetown, South Africa.  March, 1996,  SOUTH_AFRICA-10012South Africa

The underlying principles of Wabi Sabi are diametrically opposed
to those of their Western counterparts, 

whose values are rooted in a worldview that
values permanence, grandeur, symmetry, and perfection.

– Andrew Juniper

SM18564, 07/2011, ITALY-10368. A flower vase in Italy. Retouched_Sam SchubertItaly

For a lovely bowl
Let us arrange these flowers
For there is no rice
– Matsuo Bashō,  Japanese Haiku


If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies.
What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.
– Matthew Fox


DSC_4216; Japan; 05/2011; May; 2011, JAPAN-10101NFfinal print_MACROJapan


To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.
– John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

CAMBODIA-10002View of Preah Khan, Cambodia

 A diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections.
– Chinese proverb



About the author

Steve McCurry has been a one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than 30 years, with scores of magazine and book covers, over a dozen books, and countless exhibitions around the world to his name.

Born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; McCurry studied film at Pennsylvania State University, before going on to work for a local newspaper. After several years of freelance work, McCurry made his first of what would become many trips to India. Traveling with little more than a bag of clothes and another of film, he made his way across the subcontinent, exploring the country with his camera.

It was after several months of travel that he found himself crossing the border into Pakistan. There, he met a group of refugees from Afghanistan, who smuggled him across the border into their country, just as the Russian Invasion was closing the country to all western journalists. Emerging in traditional dress, with full beard and weather-worn features after weeks embedded with the Mujahideen, McCurry brought the world the first images of the conflict in Afghanistan, putting a human face to the issue on every masthead.

Since then, McCurry has gone on to create stunning images over six continents and countless countries. His work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike - yet always retains the human element that made his celebrated image of the Afghan Girl such a powerful image.

McCurry has been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, National Press Photographers Award, and an unprecedented four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest, to name a few.