The Photograph as Kintsugi

A photo is not only an image but an object

M. H. Rubin
3 min readJan 18, 2023

I’ve spent the past few years evangelizing my feelings about the photograph as haiku — and the many ways those poetic forms can be aesthetically connected.

I’m also a fan of kintsugi — the 15th century Japanese art form where broken ceramics are repaired with gold. Kintsugi highlights the flaws: it takes a reasonably cheap and common piece of clay, one made less useful by being broken, and by highlighting the cracks with gold remakes the everyday object into (almost) jewelry — something precious and special. Kintsugi reminds us about perfection in imperfection, it’s a good illustration of wabi-sabi, and it’s one of the cooler (and less well-known) Zen arts.

When you photograph an object you make it special, simply by highlighting it. Even the most commonplace moment or item can become iconic, valuable, special, through the act of being photographed.

I saw Andrea Modica’s photo of a plain dress on Instagram today:

Andrea Modica, “Modena, Italy” (8x10” platinum palladium print) © Andrea Modica

It’s nothing special. The subject and presentation are neither dramatic nor important — just a cheap ceramic bowl. But by singling this moment and…



M. H. Rubin

Living a creative life, a student of high magic, and hopefully growing wiser as I age. • Ex-Lucasfilm, Netflix, Adobe. • Here are some stories and photos.