Wabi-sabi is a name for a Japanese philosophical and aesthetic movement with a key tenet of acceptance of the transient nature of all things. According to wabi-sabi, everything passes, and in that passage and imperfection lies the possibility of true beauty.
As I write in Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, “in my work with flowers, I seek to understand how ephemeral life is, and to translate this sense into the emotion we associate with time passing—which is a deeper sense of true love than that associated with the first blush of early, often fickle and shallow, beauty.”
In other words, the syllogism goes as follows:
- Expressing emotion is one of the most important things any photo can do.
- Flowers are often a vehicle in art for projecting our feelings about love and beauty.
- If we are to progress beyond the infatuations of shallow youth towards the meeting of true minds that is mature love, then flowers as they age with all their imperfections are as much a valid subject as blossoms in the first sensuous blush of opening.
- Flowers in decay are therefore a valid subject for photographic interpretation.
With this composition of Tulip Wabi-Sabi, I watched my tulips over the course of a week as they gradually matured, lost a few petals, and curled—beautiful at every step of the way.
The resulting image, shot against black velvet, is a little mysterious and exotic, as though birds with colorful plumage were descending through the dusk. No birds, these are just my lovely tulips, subject to gravity and aging like all of us.
Exposure data: 85mm tilt-shift macro, nine exposures at shutter speeds from 1/60 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures processed via Adobe Camera RAW and Nik HDR Efex Pro, and finished in Photoshop.