Art of 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

Agra, India



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

Havana, 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



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.

Kathmandu, Nepal

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


Preah Khan, Angkor, Cambodia

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


Mandalay, Myanmar/Burma

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

Havana, Cuba

Srinagar, Kashmir

Mandalay, Burma/Myanmar



Elberton, Georgia, Deep South, USA

Havana, Cuba

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

About Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry, recognized universally as one of today’s finest image-makers, has won many of photography’s top awards.
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39 Responses to Art of Imperfection

  1. Geneviève says:

    Love the concept of Wabi-Sabi, and love the photographs.

  2. Stephen F. Condren says:

    Dear Steve:

    I love your photo of the Taj Mahal. I has inspired me to do a drawing from it.

    Stephen F. Condren

  3. Pingback: Art of Imperfection — Steve McCurry’s Blog – Steps and Long Roads

  4. Pingback: Art of Imperfection — Steve McCurry’s Blog – INSPIRE

  5. soul and spirit inspired…pulling back the veil of nations.

  6. harsha says:


  7. phraseathot says:

    your work is a feast for the eyes…the symmetry, the colors, the textures, the humanity…thank you.

  8. Jackie says:

    I totally agree with that Wabi-Sabi philosophy and in a way it is the essence of photography.

  9. Amazing and so inspiring..makes our western culture really fall short in many ways

  10. Beautiful….thankyou, again,for another fascinating collection of images from around the world.

  11. Pingback: Zitate: Wabi Sabi | Martin in Berlin

  12. Arti Tyagi says:

    such beauty! made my day… uh, evening actually! 🙂

  13. I’m absorbed by the beauty in the photographs and the messages beneath. A heartwarming post that resonates with me.

  14. I totally agree. I once took a photo of a white tulip with one red petal, surrounded by completely white tulips. That stubborn punker tulip made my day.

  15. Totally agree. Beautiful blog post. I once took a photo of a white tulip with one red petal, surrounded by completely white tulips. That one stubborn punker tulip made my day.

  16. Mansukh Shah says:

    Thank you once again Stevebhai for these wonderful images and the quotes.
    ”Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.”

  17. I’m in awe! Thank you.

  18. paula graham says:

    Outstanding in every way.

  19. Martina says:


  20. Bikram says:

    Beautiful images, very thought provoking especially the image from Srinagar.

  21. Carole Free says:

    Thank you so much for enhancing my thinking with your wonderful eye and philosophy 👁👍🏻👋

  22. Lisa Chesser says:

    Thank you for teaching me Wabi-Sabi in such a profoundly visual way.

  23. Sue says:

    Marvellous interpretations

  24. Thank you for your wonderful work. Very inspiring.
    Sheila Silver, Composer of A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Opera

  25. Carol Nelson says:

    Thank you so much. Love all your posts. This one particularly resonates with me, love the philosophy and images,

  26. Linda wolliamdon says:

    You continue to teach me to see. Thank you.

  27. Wonderful as usual, thanx Steve!

  28. Laura Plumb says:

    We just visited your show in Ortigia, Sicily. It is stunning. We didn’t want to leave. The experience of each piece, the experience of the whole, is so enlivening, uplifting, holy. Thank you for your talent, your courage, your eyes and your heart.

  29. Jane Lurie says:

    Thank you, Steve, for opening our eyes and hearts to the beauty of imperfection and Wabi Sabi.

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  31. Myrna says:

    Lovely images and theme. I learned something pertinent to my view of the world, my own creativity and appreciation of the art that surrounds us. I want to learn more about Wabi Sabi.

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