One person’s trash, is another person’s (wabi-sabi) treasure

So often I find myself scouring a beach for pristine, unspoilt sand. Or I’ll spend countless hours on all fours looking for that perfectly scaled moss. More often than not, I’m quick to disregard an imperfect location for toy photography. But some rats and a dog have taught me to look at imperfections for their potential.

Tunnel trouble

Our vegetable garden has been taken over by native marsupial rats (Rattus fuscipes). They burrow underground, and create little racing tracks to scurry around from vegetable plot to vegetable plot. These tunnels might signify the trashing of our vegetable haul, however…

Tunnel of Love
wabi-sabi: Tunnel of Love

These rodent tunnels make wonderful toy photography settings. Once flat, uninteresting garden beds are a maze of burrowed settings.

Bladder blather

We recently had to replace the water pump that circulates water from our lake around the property to horse troughs and for watering gardens. Inside the old pump was a membrane bladder. This became our dog’s chew toy! What began as large plastic ball (About the size of 8 footballs. For our US readers, 8 footballs. Or for our European readers, about the size of 8 footballs), is now a mauled, tattered, scrap of plastic. It probably should go into the trash, however…

wabi-sabi: Creeping the Bladder
Creeping the Bladder

The tattered edges make wonderful backgrounds. The now threadbare membrane dapples light beautifully. And the once inflated, “impossible to balance a toy upon” now lays flat.

wabi-sabi: Creeping the Bladder
Creeping the Bladder II

Wabi what?

We’ve referenced wabi-sabi before on the blog. Shelly cited a book about it as inspiration, and Tony linked wabi-sabi to his vintage lenses.

In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Wabi-sabi is sometimes described as beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. There are three simple wabi-sabi realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

However, even without understanding the finer details of wabi-sabi, I think it all boils down to making the most of what you’ve got. Even if what you’ve got is a scruffy water pump bladder and a violated vegetable patch.

– Brett

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  1. What a fun and reflective post. And I even got the cross-continent sports joke, which is big for your Dougie, Brett. Love your pics and the creativity of making the changing landscape your own. Hope you’re doing great.

    • brett_wilson

      I’m glad my sport joke wasn’t wasted! Since writing this post, we’ve had some much needed rain… meaning… my beloved moss is reappearing in our paddocks. It’s nearly “living diorama” time again!!

  2. Janan

    Great article and I couldn’t agree more in how some seemingly unattractive things can make beautiful images by just changing our perspective. Thoughtful principle. 😊

  3. Love hearing your thoughts, Brett! You inspire me to not only embrace the wabi-sabi of life but also to consider the myriad ways that toy photography can be discussed and put into context of life and philosophy. Thank you for that!

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