When Silence Will Suffice by Vanda Ralevska

When Silence Will Suffice by Vanda Ralevska

I have been expressing myself through photography for many years. Too many to count and quite frankly, the number is irrelevant and unimportant. It has been a long journey of self-discovery with many obstacles and diversions. I got lost several times along the way,  however it turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. Each detour I took taught me more about myself and that helped me eventually re-discover who I was, who I am now. 

When I look back on my path that led me here, I can see many images scattered along the way marking my footsteps. They might not be necessarily what I like now, I have discarded many of them. But each and every one represents an invaluable moment that I experienced and was fortunate to capture. 

Most of my photographs don’t speak out loud. My voice is soft. I find happiness in ordinary moments. In seemingly insignificant things that are so often overlooked. In quiet scenes that whisper gentle messages.

It’s the small details that very often stop me in my tracks. The subtleties of light. The understated beauty encapsulated within simple scenes and everyday objects found in nature or in the human world. The views that go unnoticed. Whether it is the evening sun rays touching the crest of a wave, raindrops distorting pond reflections, dew sparkling in the winter sun, or a valley enveloped in autumnal mist. Discovering a world of beauty in the most unexpected places brings me an incredible joy. 

To me photography is like poetry. It’s when your mind gives a way to your heart. It’s when you let your emotions take over. And then all you have to do is feel. There is no need for an explanation. Sometimes I am able to preserve that moment with my camera, and occasionally I am lucky to find eloquent words through which I can convey how I feel. One of the most precious times for me is when the images and words come together.

There is sweet music ringing through the canopy of trees of raindrops singing and dancing with the fluttering leaves. Tone by tone their song fills the silent woodland halls with the season’s wonder and autumness of it all.

I believe that instilled in me there is a sense of wonder and awe which I always hope comes across through my images. I am interested in those remarkable feelings when a fresh breath of wind sways the tall grass and sings through the trees. When you breathe in the crisp autumnal air that fills your lungs so you can almost taste it. Dripping mist resounding through a quiet woodland, the music of rustling autumnal leaves or freshly fallen snow crunching under your feet. The moments just after the rain when the air feels clean and fresh and filled with earthy smell. 

The sense of wonder is something none of us should ever lose. It’s trying to remember what it felt like when we were children. Those exciting times of great discoveries and constant wonderment when everything had a pinch of magic in it. The memories of childhood and who I was when I believed in magic stay with me. They are an essential part of me that still believes. I need those memories to remind me that butterflies are still beautiful, and flowers give out the most intoxicating fragrance, and the first snowflakes are like fairy dust. The soft pitter patter of rain sounds like a soothing piano song, and the sea sings a song of love and longing.

I go out with an open mind, which is key to my photography. I don’t usually plan what I would like to capture unless I am working on a project. But even then, I always wonder what else is there that I can see. As my Mum says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans”. It always makes me smile, but there is also a lot of truth in this saying. With expectations there is always a danger of disappointment. Therefore most often I don’t hope for anything in particular. All I need is a quiet space. I let my mind wander and let the pictures find me. Through silence and solitude, I am able to create a connection with the surrounding world, without which I wouldn’t be able to see. Only then can I de-clutter my mind, stop the incessant mental chatter and let go of any distracting thoughts. It allows me to truly see the profound beauty that exists within the small things,  in our everyday lives and within what seems like the most mundane.  

No matter how much I try to create a peaceful space inside me and silence the outside noise, there are times and places when it becomes impossible. So gradually over the years I became fond of those most quiet hours of early mornings and late nights. My favourite time to go out is when the darkness wraps the world around into a blanket of silence. When most people are still asleep, and the light is ever so slowly trying to make its way through the night. These are the times when all the magic happens. The sky is gradually getting brighter, the midnight black turns into the colour of deep blue ink. The twilight colours are the softest and the most beautiful. Just before the sunrise, when a burst of colours seeps into the blues just like colours on an artist’s palette. This is when the tranquillity of the night is broken by a beautiful melody of dawn chorus and the new day is about to start.  

When the night falls, quietly I’ll slip away.
Not to wake you from your deepest dream.
To lose myself in the stillness of the lake.
Softly lit by the moon’s luminous beam.

Alone I’ll wander through the solitary paths of light.
And in the sudden wake of the trembling dew,
I’ll listen to the moonlit silence of the night.
With one secret wish – in your dream, you hear it too.

At times it is almost impossible to express myself through photography or words. Then  silence will suffice. It is time to put the camera away and simply enjoy the view. Then I realise that I have everything I have ever wanted or needed – here and now. That here is the best place and now is the best time. Due to my love for photography I learnt to be grateful for those moments. They will always stay with me, and so will the feelings, whether I have managed to capture them or not.

That’s what photography is for me. It’s about the moments when I walk into a scene that makes me speechless. When something moves me and makes me want to preserve it and carry it in my memory for a long time. It’s about those times when I don’t want to be anywhere else, but where I am. About being truly present in those moments and enjoying them for what they are – ethereal, otherworldly, extraordinary, or just simple, ordinary, even mundane. At this point it stops being about photography only, and it starts being about life itself. About the beauty of life. How incredibly amazing it is and how extremely important it is to appreciate every single day. For me, that is the most precious gift that photography keeps on giving.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange