Mono No Aware: Appreciate the fleeting days of spring!

Have you heard of the term Mono No Aware?  The concept originated in Japanese literature as early as the 1100s. During the 18th century, the idea spread through Japanese culture and became a tradition. The term means ” the pathos of things.” This term often implies sadness or a melancholy state. However, the term means much more than surface-level emotions. The deep feeling that washes over us as we realize that everything is transient, the ephemeral nature of all things. That existence is short, to cherish the fleeting things in life. To appreciate the fading spring, changing of the seasons. To love the beauty of things that pass. 

The most notable reference to this concept is the season of Cherry Blossoms. They signify the beginning of spring and the beauty that only lasts for a few weeks. The idea reminds us to enjoy the most precious moments while fleeting to slow down and enjoy them. In Japanese culture and tradition, the Cherry Blossom season is one that is celebrated and honored. The blooms usually begin to fall after flowering for a week, and it is precisely the evanescence of their beauty that brings out the feeling of melancholy and joy of mono no aware. It is the awareness and bittersweet feeling of seeing things change. 

There are many other beautiful examples of mono no aware found in nature. For me, the Peony flower is another lovely example. Peonies are subtle flowers in the garden that are often overlooked. The spring plant only blooms for a short few weeks. The small buds open over a  few days and grace us with their layers or artistry. The bluebonnets in Texas and the Bluebells in Virginia are also beautiful seasons of color in nature that bring us joy even for a short time. 

There are many artists throughout history and current-day that express their art through this concept. I admire the work of the artist Casper Faassen, The Asia Series. The art is mixed media with blurred subjects, crackled surfaces to show the subject fading into the light. This work is a beautiful representation of mono no aware. Here is an excellent interview with the artist. 

As I think about this concept, I am curious how I could use it to impact my photography this spring. First, it will be necessary to slow down and enjoy the beauty of spring - the fleeting moments of beautiful blooms of spring trees and flowers. As I photograph this season, I want to bring out the softness and the fading beauty. 

Photography ideas to capture that mono no aware feel: 

- Use a shallow depth of field to create softness and an ethereal look to your images. Shooting at F2.8 or lower will help achieve this look. 

- Shoot the bright new blooms as well as the ones that are fading.

- Use the technique of shooting through to add softness and create the sense of a fleeting moment. I like to use lace, tulle, or tissue paper to shoot through with my camera. 

- When editing, you can add texture, glow, or blur to enhance your images further. 

- During post-processing, desaturate any color to give the images a soft and vintage-look.

As you are out capturing the beauty of spring, I hope you will take a minute to appreciate the moment because the beauty you see is just for this time and that place.  It will pass. Life changes, new beauty will arrive. Like cherry blossoms, our lives are full of starts and stops, but taking time to appreciate the beauty in all fleeting moments is a great way to live. 

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