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Mini-interview: Silence with Reto Fürst

Reto is a local wildlife photographer. You can find him at www.retofuerst.com.

Reto Fürst decked out for a day of photographing birds in the wild.

i). What role does silence play in what you do?

In wildlife photography, silence is one of the many keys to success. Wild animals are very sensitive in respect of intruders to their territories and therefore one must be very careful to not disturb or spook them. Therefore, approaching them in a silent way is important. When taking pictures of animals, I always try to capture common and stress-free behavior. Wild animals have been there long before us and the forest belongs to them – not to us. We are only guests and we should behave as such. Being silent is one way to show respect to the inhabitants of the forests.

When photographing birds (my main focus) I am listening to bird calls to e.g. find a certain species or to “read” the current mood of a bird. Interestingly, silence plays a role in this as well. Song birds may by singing and chirping happily and loudly and all of a sudden become quiet – silent – nothing – a sign that a threat is around (and I am not talking about my presence). This is an alert for me to immediately check the surroundings for raptors like sparrowhawks that go after the small birds.

But silence has also another meaning for me – inner silence. I am a very restless person that hardly can sit still doing nothing 🙂 However, when I’m out there, walking through the woods or sitting and waiting camouflaged for animal encounters, I find myself closely connected to mother nature and find my inner peace. Even the forest may be loud – full of bird songs and frogs croaking – I feel (inner) silence. It is required for me to fully focus and commit myself to what I do in photography.

ii). How does that silence feel to you?

Silence for me is the moment when I “leave” my earthly humanly existence and connect with my higher self. When I feel silence, I hear the birds talking to me, the trees chatting to me, the wind whispering to me and I just listen to them. I lose track of space and time and live in the presence of now. 

iii). In today’s world, people often struggle with silence. Do you feel we would benefit from a bit more silence? How could we go about finding it?

Everywhere we go there is noise. Cars, public transport, constructions, other people, stress and perceptual overload. Noise makes it difficult to concentrate, noise takes away energy from us and noise can burn us out. But I have a feeling we forgot what silence is or, better, can’t bear silence. I think people mainly struggle with silence because during silence they are faced with their demons and as they can’t handle silence, they try to distract themselves. When I am commuting in the train, I love to watch out of the windows. Spotting foxes, deer, flying birds or changing colors of the trees. When I watch other people, they “all” are occupied with their cellphones on social media, Youtube or Spotify. This is no judgement but rather an observation. Interestingly though when people talk about vacation, they always tell me that they want to go somewhere where they can relax and just be without distraction. Does this mean they need vacation from their daily lives because in daily life they can’t find silence? Maybe. They also tell me that they envy me for spending so much time in the forests (and in silent places) whereas they always are too busy to find time to relax. I think that’s another interesting thing about our society that people “know” what would be good for them but that they don’t find time for it. They over-prioritize things that don’t give them anything (again no judgement in this, just another observation).

I am convinced that we all would benefit from more silence. And with all, I don’t mean only the individual that experiences silence but also her or his social surroundings. If a person experiences silence and becomes more peaceful, this will may have a positive effect on others as well. Silence is everywhere, the art lies in finding it and this maybe means to first remove inner fear from experiencing (or allowing) silence. I think in reality it’s not that we find silence but that silence finds us. 

Different people may experience silence in different places. What for me is the forest might be for others the mountains, a church or a museum. I think one can’t give general advice on that but rather motivate people to go out and see if they can feel silence in special places.

 

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