A photographer’s search for silence

Photo credit: Matteo Badini from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I was an environmentalist long before I became a noise activist, and am a member and supporter of a number of environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy. Like The Quiet Coaltion, The Nature Conservancy includes “The” in its name. I like that!

The Fall 2021 issue of The Nature Conservancy’s magazine includes this wonderful article by Pete McBride, a photographer who is interested not just in the pictures he takes but also in the sound behind his images.

His new book, “Seeing Silence: The Beauty of the World’s Most Quiet Places,” will be published by Rizzoli this month. The essay accompanying the pictures in the article describes an incident that occurred when McBride was following British adventurer Ed Stafford down a Peruvian stretch of the Amazon River.  Stafford is walking the entire length of the Amazon River on foot.

McBride and the group almost got shocked by a 600 pound electric eel, but he heard the eel in the water, stood motionless, and the eel didn’t shock them. He shares the wisdom of the Oceania Indian tracker guiding the group:

The forest communicates more with sounds than with sights. When you learn how to quietly listen, the more you see. And the longer you live.

I think that’s true in urban environments as well.

McBride writes that, “[o]ften the hardest-to-document marvels are not the breathtaking visas I chase with my camera but the blanket of calm that surrounds them, layered with notes of wind, wings and scampering claws, natural silence resonates long after my pixels have been processed.”

Even if you won’t buy the book, I recommend looking at the beautiful pictures in the article. Quietly.

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