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Contemplative Photography - The Beauty of Imperfection

Christine Valters Paintner in her book Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice talks about the beauty of the imperfect and an invitation to see God there, too. She calls it “Wabi-Sabi”.


Wabi-sabiis a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional. ~ Leonard Koren.

In the Japanese Buddhist tradition is the term wabi-sabi, which refers to the beauty we find in imperfection and things declining or falling apart. It is a way of honoring that everything is impermanent and we are always in a state of both becoming and falling away. The seasons reveal this wisdom to us with the flowering and fullness of spring and summer, and the release, decay, and rest found in autumn and winter.

Wabi-Sabi is an invitation to take the camera out into the world and intentionally cast our gaze upon things that others would turn away from. It’s a time of meditation on how we find the sacred presence shimmering here, in places of imperfection and moments of decay. If we take this journey of seeing with the eyes of the heart seriously, we’re called to find the sacred in all things, even what seems “ugly” or in a state of decay.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NKJV)

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