#831. Wabi Sabi in action

By Paul Perton | Interview

Mar 13

I met Nancee Rostad at a photography workshop in Page, AZ some years ago. I really enjoyed her abstract, colourful work and have one of her prints at home. We became photobuddies and keep in (ir)regular touch as our lives continue on two different continents. Nancee lives near Seattle and in recently visiting Japan, discovered Wabi Sabi, Pascal’s own recent fascination.


I spotted Nancee’s Wabi Sabi images on her Web site a couple of weeks ago and asked her to contribute some of her exquisite photographs to our knowledge pool at DearSusan.







I first became interested in the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi during a trip to Kyoto in 2017, but I never consciously attempted to capture it with my camera until recently. Even then, it only occurred to me that these images felt like wabi-sabi while I was trying to name the galleries for my website. Originally, all of these images were titled “The Pavement Project” and even though they expressed wabi-sabi as a group, I could see that there were two distinct ideas which would result in two galleries: “Wabi-Sabi” & the tongue-in-cheek entitled “Still Life with Storm Drain.” 





These images came about when our area was recovering from a recent snow event – rare in Seattle environs. After most of the snow had finally melted, I started to notice how interesting the paved areas in front of our townhouse became in different light and with differing amounts and kinds of moisture (rain, ice, snow melt, etc). Serendipity had struck again! I found it amazing that something as pedestrian as asphalt paving could look so beautiful in, what I came to realize was, a wabi-sabi way. Each day brought new photographic opportunities which represented many of the characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic, including asymmetry, roughness, simplicity & austerity, in other words: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. 





Typically, I tend to be a rather independent photographer, purposefully traveling to a specific location with plans to photograph local iconic objects and/or vistas, yet wandering off to photograph something which happens to catch my eye. I’ve frustrated more than one workshop leader while ignoring what they wanted me to photograph, only to find a another subject which I preferred – just ask Paul Perton. My preference is to photograph alone without numerous distractions or long conversations about gear. I only own two lenses, so any discussion about gear is going to be a short one. 






Over the years, I have developed a style of photography with little or no negative space. Whichever subject I’m shooting, the resulting composition simply fills the entire frame. I don’t know why that’s my style, and I guess it doesn’t matter if I like the resulting images.






Nancee Rostad

You can find Nancee at: njrostadphotography.com 


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  • JohnW says:

    WOW!! Delightful. I especially like 1, 2, 6, 10, 12-15. Gorgeous colours and textures. Hmmmm, there’s this parking lot ….

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Woof! – I love this – and I love the thinking behind it!
    Being dumber than most of this group, I’m still grappling with Wabi Sabi, wondering what it means. I guess it falls into that category where the other guy says “It’s a waste of time trying to tell you what it means. If I have to explain it to you, you’d never understand it anyway!”
    But you aren’t the only one who wanders away from the group and does their own thing – or turns up with (at most) one camera and one or two lenses (that’s the limit).
    And “chases the rainbow” – seeing how different light and different moisture levels etc in the atmosphere affect what we see – or what the camera does. It might be boring to other people, but I’ve taken so many photos of the same scene in my own street, examining those differences, that I’ve lost count. And there are scarcely any two that are the same. Also reflections – reflected light and reflected images – that change everything all over again. Turn around and look in the opposite direction – all different – 90 degrees or 270 – same again, I mean all different all over again. Look down – look up – LOOK. Learn to “see”! That’s more important to me than learning what all the buttons do. I can learn that on the fly!
    I must by an english-japanese/japanese-english dictionary! Try to “undumb” myself, before it’s all too late and the shutters come down.

    • Pascal Ravach says:

      Well, JP, not a waste of time 😀
      Wabi is the contemplation of “impermanence”, like in Nancee’s pics.
      Sabi is the appreciation of the “imperfect beauty” coming from the aging of things, like in mine.

      What’s hard is the feeling of blending both… practicing bonsaÏ is a good exemple.

      About impermanence, ancient Chinese had a sentence I always loved: “traces of birds’ steps in the snow”… could not be clearer 🙂

      And if you guys fall for this approach, one incredible documentary to recommend: “Rivers and Tide”, following the work of
      Andy Goldsworthy (I just see today “AG et l’oeuvre du temps”!!!, can’t invent that :D).
      This is called “Land art”, but his work is more linked to Wabi than any other artist I know.
      Believe me, it’s just phenomenal.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Nancee Rostad,
    Thank you for letting us see those photos, it gave me great joy to see them!

    I also really enjoyed a lot of your homepage, including “ON THIN ICE”.

    ( Every end of winter I hope for a sunny photo day to catch the ice breaking and being washed ashore in all shapes of crystals…or in late autumn when the first thin ice breaks again and ice flakes gather on the shore.)
    – – –

    thanks a *lot* for asking Nancee Rostad to make this post!

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    I am totally on board with these beautiful images. These are the types of images that I have long sought but seldom found for as long as I have carried a camera. I had never heard of wabi-sabi so when I found one I called it a “natural abstract”. By whatever name you call them they are beautiful and enchanting and I have gone back through Nancee’s images several times enjoying them.
    My first experience with the words wabi-sabi was a few years ago while I was working with a nude model. She had “wabi-sabi love” tattooed just behind her shoulder. I asked her what it meant and the best she could define it was something like imperfect perfection that doesn’t last.
    One of the images I made of her was accepted in a national exhibit and hung for three months in the exhibit gallery.
    I have really enjoyed this post, Paul.

  • pascal ravach says:

    Gorgeous, Nancee!
    Exactly the kind of image I love the most 🙂
    And spot on about wabi sabi 🙂
    I am thankful to Pascal J to bring wabi-sabi in our little community, ant to Paul to push you to publish here.

  • paulperton says:

    A word of thanks for your comments from Nancee:

    “I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to look at my Wabi-Sabi images. As fellow photographers you must know that your comments carry more weight and are more meaningful to me because you understand the artistic process so well. Creating images is such a personal experience that any positive feedback is a gift.

    A special thank you to Paul Perton for inviting me to “guest post” on DearSusan.”

    You’re welcome Nancee – don’t leave it too long to share your next project.

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