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

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


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71 Responses to “Beauty in Imperfection”

  1. intelligent post as always

  2. […] Beauty in Imperfection | Steve McCurry’s Blog – May 01, 2013 · 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 …… […]

  3. I had never thought of ‘beauty’ as a dynamic event, taking place between a person & a thing. Or that it is an altered state of consciousness — But, now I understand so much more completely things I’ve experienced, finding something beautiful in my mid-50s that I wouldn’t have thought so in my mid-20s ……………… Huh.

  4. Hi I too wrote an article on wabi- sabi for children . It was really a challenge trying to explain this to children. Hope you like it .

  5. […] is a  great blog post i found on wabi sabi by Steve […]

  6. Anonymous Says:

    mesmerizing perfection in imperfection………….:)

  7. Reblogged this on Musings on Arab Culture and commented:
    I always find inspiration in Steve McCurry’s posts!

  8. Reblogged this on ELANA – The Voice of the Future and commented:

  9. I can hardly believe that I reached an age of over 70 without knowing of ‘wabi sabi’. This post is going to change my life!

  10. Balancing between photography perfection and the amazing imperfection of our world!

  11. Perfect WABI SABI pictures.

  12. Argentina Gutierrez Says:

    Me encanta !!!!!!

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Me encanta !!!!!!

  14. Don’t really know how I shall express … myself – I will only use one word and it’s -AWESOME!

  15. Really like your focus on Wabi Sabi and finding the beauty in imperfection! . . . As always, captivating photos and captions!

  16. Reblogged this on mymotionpicture and commented:
    They say “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” – Steve your sight and perception is a beauty in itself..

  17. beauty in perfection in your photos!!

  18. Reblogged this on Leya and commented:
    Beauty is not about perfection. But, this blog entry by Steve McCurry is maybe as close as you can get. Savour “Beauty in Imperfection”

  19. Anonymous Says:

    beauty in perfection in your photos!!!

  20. Everyday we learn something new. I believe this beautiful message has to be seen by as many people as possible. to be lost in perfection in the wrong way can be solved. You show the way.

  21. Imperfection is a very nice:)
    Good thinking about real worl,
    because real worl is not perfect, but is beauty!

  22. Inspiring and amazing. Such beauty in simplicity. You capture it so well! Thank you!

  23. Inspiring and amazing! Such beauty in simplicity – you capture it well! Thank you!

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Wieder eine wunderschöne Serie, es ist einmalig wie Steve McCurry die Situationen einfängt.

  25. This blog post is a true meditation; something to reflect on deeply. Thank you!

  26. You see our imperfect world in an extremely beautiful way – thanks for sharing, very uplifting (:

  27. dgncadiz Says:

    Reblogueó esto en El diario de dgncadizy comentado:
    Wabi Sabi es una forma de ver el mundo que está en el corazón de la cultura japonesa. Encuentra la belleza y la harmonía en lo que es simple, imperfecto, natural, modesto o misterioso.
    Los principios del Wabi Sabi son diametralmente opuestos a su equivalente en la cultura occidental, cuyos valores están arraigados en un una visión del mundo que valora la permanencia, la grandeza, la simetría y la perfección.

  28. This wabisabi is something that I’ve been wanting to learn for…

    Thanks for sharing this lesson.:)

  29. dulzimordash Says:

    Reblogged this on Nature’s Abhorred Vacuum.

  30. Tullia Says:

    Meravigliose foto, davvero evocative!

  31. Carol Says:

    Appreciation of Reality- what a concept!

  32. Inspiring and magical…As good as it gets!!!! Maravilloso trabajo Steve!!!! un abrazo desde Mexico!!!!!

  33. Reblogged this on Z & G Dark and commented:
    Absolutely loved this post! Hope you do too!

  34. The concept of Wabi-Sabi really resonates with me. I believe that we are surrounded by beauty and it can be found in the most mundane of items or places. We’ll find it if we actually LOOK and not only see. I’m quite pleased to see my home country of South Africa featured here:)

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Outstanding! But that is to be expected. I had the pleasure of meeting you way back in either the late eighties or early nineties at a Photo Workshop in Maine and subsequently at the National Geographic in Washington, D.C. I have several of your books and have followed your work. I especially enjoyed your “Last Roll of Kodachrome.” Thank you for body of work.

  36. Marta Amezquita Says:

    Have taught classes in Wabi Sabi and so these principles are close to my heart. These lovely photographs are perfect metaphors…

  37. Reblogged this on Rose Colored Photos and commented:
    Absolutely Inspiring.

  38. I had never heard of the concept of Wabi Sabi before – but it is something that I very much live my life by. One of my favorite artists publishes Humans of New York, and I adore him because he finds the beauty in the average, the odd, the obscure and even the ugly.

    This blog post is simply inspiring. The figure in the broken mirror took my breath away.
    Thank you for sharing your vision and thank you for introducing me to this concept and illustrating it so clearly.

  39. T. Narayan Says:

    Just AMAZING!

  40. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  41. Specially like the one from Nepal. And, in that one, the post title doesn’t apply😉
    It is perfect!

  42. Beautiful and inspiring.

  43. Loved every picture… As they say beauty lies in the eyes of beholder… and who better than the Master himself… thanks.

  44. Wonderful as ever.

  45. Saud A Faisal Says:

    Reblogged this on Around us and commented:
    always inspired

  46. You really captured the essence of every country! Beautiful!

  47. james geyman Says:

    Amazing and transcendent.

  48. Reblogged this on Neverending1's Blog and commented:
    This blog remains me of us targets. We’re broken, but we’re all still beautiful. [NE1]

  49. Excellent collection !

  50. I never knew the meaning of Wabi-Sabi, so I learned something new both from your quotes and from your perfect-in-their-imperfection photos. Thanks for another inspirational set of photos, Steve.:-)

  51. broken & beautiful in itself epitomizes perfection…in the way it’s suppose to be. wabi-sabi – love this!

  52. Reblogged this on Caixa Negra and commented:
    Mais um magnífico post no blog de Steve McCurry.
    Não percam !

  53. Reblogged this on Warren Exchange and commented:
    In the business of buying and selling, everything you buy you have to inspect with a fine tooth comb. You have to find every imperfection that can hinder your ability to sell the item. Sometimes this can make you loose sight of the beauty in all objects. Just came across this great blog on wabi sabi, great read to readjust your perspective…

  54. Thought provoking as always Steve, beauty stitched together, thank you.

  55. Marilee Pittman Says:

    Once again you have outdone your self. Your photos are poems. Such compassion and such an eye for seeing beyond what seems to be.

  56. Beautiful blog. In my job I must look for the imperfections in everything. Glad to come home and erase my mind from work with the beauty of this:)

  57. Inspiring as always

  58. Oui la beauté peut être dans des choses simples. En tout cas elle est dans l’oeil de Steve Mc Curry

  59. Your pictures and the little thoughts are a reason why I’m thankful for blogs.

  60. There is beauty in the transience, falling apart slowly.
    I must admit though, when I saw the first photo….my initial thought was….hmmm….kind of hard to read with no head. 😉

  61. A true sigh of pleasure with every new image.

  62. mapi guerrini Says:


  63. Beautiful thoughts and pictures.

  64. “I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly. Because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.” Robert Rauschenberg We are surrounded by beauty but isn’t it wonderful that it doesn’t need to be perfect!

  65. Reblogged this on Rasmines Photography and commented:
    Nice! :))

  66. Anonymous Says:

    Nice! 👏

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