Damien Drew

Damien Drew is a photographer with a particular passion for documenting the built environment and our relationship with it. He is fascinated with what he sees as a loss of a sense of place and texture and it’s rapid replacement with a globally generic built environment. Vital places and communities are being transformed such that every place becomes no place in particular. His images ask us to pay attention to scenes and details habitually passed over, presenting beauty in unlikely places. Damien is also an Art Director and Production Designer whose feature film credits include Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant, The Great Gatsby, Superman Returns, Star Wars and The Matrix films. He studied Architecture at UNSW in Sydney and he has a clear passion for placemaking and visual storytelling.


The Japanese term ‘Wabi-Sabi’ may be loosely translated as the contemplation of the transient and understated beauty of the modest, imperfect, ephemeral or decaying.
This series presents a perspective of modern day Japan as viewed through this lens.

One of the world’s largest economies, Japan’s employment opportunities are concentrated in its urban centres. The country’s population is ageing and this, coupled with low birthrates, has seen a marked decline in rural regions. This downturn is leaving many towns and villages silent in their melancholy beauty. The landscape is dotted with deserted schools and destitute factories. Shuttered streets and shopping arcades also lie dormant in suburbs of Tokyo and Osaka as people flock to the modern and centralised shopping districts.

The air of neglect in these streetscapes belies a quiet and rare beauty that Drew carefully observes in this series. WABI-SABI invites us to consider beauty in the impermanence of all things, capturing and contrasting scenes and details that may be inconspicuous or overlooked.

Drew suggests that whilst ‘Wabi-Sabi’ is often considered to be an aesthetic concept the Japanese people might more readily describe how it feels. In this way WABI-SABI may present a source of peace and repose.

We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive lustre to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artefact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity. We love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colours and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them. (from Tanizaki, ‘In Praise of Shadows’ 1933)

To view more of Damien’s work please visit his website.