The taint of age can be very beautiful. The wreckage of man-made objects is something more beautiful than the new. Rust and weathering adds a patina of . . . well, I call it ‘elegant shit’ or ‘elegant gorp’. – Brett Weston

Searching for beauty is instinctive.  We look for beauty in men and women because they signal healthy breeding processes for the survival of our species. Beauty in nature attracts insects to fertilise flowers and create new life.  Majestic mountains and serene landscapes have been painted and photographed over and over, their beauty inspiring us and being transferred around the world in images that we label as beautiful.

But for me there is equal beauty in the imperfect, the old, the forgotten and the dying.  In these things I feel as if I can find deeper meanings.  The immediate attraction of overt beauty is not there, so I must look further to find value and meaning.

In judging people we have been told so often about books and their covers that we almost never say we want a beautiful or handsome partner.  We talk instead about other qualities – warmth, compassion, sense of humour etc.  But these qualities take longer to manifest, our first attraction is to symmetry, health and beauty.   Often ‘less-then-perfect’ people are unconsciously rejected from our choices, no matter how much we deny this ‘shallowness’ within ourselves.

Unless we are antiques experts, we rarely see beauty in old ‘stuff’.  It’s an old cup, with faded painting and perhaps some crazing on it.  Where is the beauty?  Even more rarely do we see the beauty in bent and broken  items.  They are for the rubbish pile.

But if we slow our judgment processes, we can see beyond the lack of perfection, beyond the cracks and dents.  We can see into the humanity of a person, we can find the history of use for things, imagine the history that has caused the breaks and twists.  Old and dying flowers or trees speak of regeneration in other forms.  Wrinkled faces and hands tell many stories of love and work.

When my camera takes me for a walk, I frequently focus on the obvious beauty of a garden first, but soon I am drawn to the flowers past their prime.  Their shapes are less predictable, their colours softer and their positioning speaks to me of death within life, of regeneration within death.  Walking in industrial areas creates the chance to explore human dreams and their implementation, and the effects those dreams have on the earth.  Debris, pollution, emptied streams  … none of these things are seen as beautiful, but the shapes and forms they create, the colours of rust and metal, the shine of oiled mud, these all have a beauty within themselves.

A deeper part of this beauty is that they force us to examine what we are doing to the world around us.  Dead trees at the edge of a once healthy lake engage and revolt us simultaneously.  Their stark beauty captures our lens, their origin our minds.

This ‘elegant gorp’ has more messages for us and more meaning than simple beauty.

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