The art of Wabi-sabi, life and it's meaning in storytelling photography | Free 52 Personal photography project | Diana Hagues Photography

As far as trends go, I am not the kind of person who massively likes to follow trends. I just haven't found something that quite fits the bill of what I'm looking for or, for the least, leaves me wanting more. That is, I think so. 

One of the trends in recent years is Hygge - a concept adopted from the Danish culture of living cosily or feeling of wellbeing. Whilst this feels all well and truly good, I mean who doesn't embrace spending time with friends or family and want to live in a contented home. As I said above, I still feel I am wanting more.

Perhaps that state of feeling is because in this busy world we live in, the concept of slowing down or slow-living, feels quite like an enigma. It also makes me wonder that in the constant need to see an improvement in our day-to-day wellbeing, of ourselves or for our family, we are looking to attain some kind of unattainable perfection. Aren't we? Or are we?

I came across another concept or philosophy for living last year. It's called Wabi-sabi (not to be confused with wasabi!). Leonard Koren came up with the definition for it as: 

"Wabi sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental."

Maybe it's my personality. Maybe because I am Chinese, and therefore, find a kinship to this oriental Japanese art of appreciating beauty and finding Zen in imperfect states, that I found this philosophy appealing. Certainly it is a philosophy created from the observation of an ancient art-form, namely tea drinking. The fact that in art, and particularly in documentary photography, we as photographers also appreciate and try to showcase the beauty in the imperfections.

As the photographer Molly Flanagan says:

"Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, when we take the time to observe life freshly." 

I know I might be stretching it out a little, but Wabi-sabi in documentary photography makes perfect sense to me. As a lover of capturing authentic moments in families or couples and celebrating their lives in pictures, I try to look for small details that says something about the people I'm photographing. However, not just the person, but also the environmental context that they live in. The imperfections that often get overlooked or thought of too mundane, boring or plain messy, are things that are fascinating and makes your photographs uniquely interesting. It also tells about you and the fuller story of the people in the pictures.

I can understand if this feels a bit raw and real, which makes us feel a little vulnerable. That is not a bad thing. In appreciating the small details or beauty in the imperfections, it could lead to a conscious appreciation of the present and allow us to slow down; seeing what it is that makes us feel what we want more of. Things like a sense of cozy nostalgia, connection or feeling of existence. In that vain, it's like connecting back to the concept of hygge.

It is also what the art of storytelling in photography is about.    

During the month of January, I chose to focus on photographing the everyday details in our home. Little personal stories when viewed either on their own merits or become part of a bigger context of our family story. 

This exercise was combined with my freelensing (Free 52) project - a project that I am carrying on from last year with a group of other talented worldwide photographer. We challenge ourselves in using the creative advanced technique of freelensing to create beautiful images. Click here to learn more about freelensing.  

Visit Renee Barth Photography to see her beautiful freelensing photos from this month. 

Diana lives with her husband, two children and one dog on the outskirts of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. She was an environmentalist by training, but had a second renaissance in her career when she got her first dslr and fell in love with photography. She is now a documentary and lifestyle photographer who specialises in photographing families, small children, newborn and couples. Her style is deeply emotive lending itself to beautiful storytelling of the subjects she captures. Contact her to learn more about her sessions