The Value of the Silence

What is the silence? What type of value do we give to this abstract something? Why is it important (if it is)? Why can it scare? Why someone like it and, instead, others dislike it. These question, together with others, have been basically the ground where my research has bloomed.

Naturally, we can simply explain it as an absence of noises, sounds, voices. It could be a condition that occurs in an environment or characterizes a given situation. Moreover, could be the failure to speak or cease to speak or not to express a will, if it is referred at the human voice. Simple as that, isn’t it?
However, the explanation beyond the physical point of view could gain complexity when this topic is analyzed through a psychological and especially anthropological point of view.

The silence inside the religion, for instance, can have different functions and purpose mostly because silence is the opposite of the word: while it defines something, silence is uncertainty, boundlessness; while the word implies the human presence, silence can evoke or at least not disturb the non-human. This last sentence is very important if we consider, in practice, magic, religious, or holy rites: they usually require the mystic silence because every useless word could influence the energy or action of metaphysical entities.

Also when we consider the simple enjoying the Mother Nature, usually we do not speak. We do stay quiet for listening. Listen to what? Birds? Wind? Or, perhaps, something that is more than a simple sum of the single elements. One thing is sure, for some people that moment can be a sacred connection with a no-humans reality and the silence, at that moment, can really be the indispensable tool or the protagonist of this relationship.

Let’s spent some words doing examples regarding the silence as a tool for the social rites. According to the cultural anthropology, the mystic silence in the case of the Taoist practice of “non-action” (wu-wei), is a form for which the non-speaking is the only way to let yourself fill up and drive to the universal harmony. Moving to the roman catholic religion, the Latin phrase Favete linguis! imposes silence to present during the ritual, aimed mainly to avoid desecration of the sacred action2. Last example from the Buddhism in which the silence precedes and accompanies the entrance into Paramartha (namely Nirvana).

As we have seen, analyzing the silence through his social functions or from a psychological point of view can be difficult, long and requires a proper study. Here, the intention was only to write a few examples in order to give a proper idea of how much value the silence can have for us.

In this work, the silence does not want to be seen as a mere physical absence of sound but, instead, as a natural psychological phenomenon that happens inside our mind and about the dynamic before that moment.
Seen from the latter point of view, silence could be interpreted as a necessary mindset for living that inner voice that helps to introspectively analyze our past, present and future life experiences.


Five Values of the Silence

This section presents the findings of the five person’s interviews that have participated in the project. The content of each text is composed of their beliefs, opinions and written sentences. The title of each text (and photograph) is given by their answer collected during the Implicit Association Test

I Mouth

I Mouth

Woman, Finland | Silence is mouth

As Finnish, I think that this concept is very close to our culture because we are always under the ice [Symbolically speaking, she means that finland has a very long winter. Editor’s note] . It’s like if the ice controls us for half of the year. It make us silent.
We always fear the winter because everybody get depressed. We don’t meet and talk face to face with anybody. We prefer to be inside our homes. During the winter, Finland is gray if you are Finnish.
For me the perfect silence is like build a mental altar where I put elements of my life, my past, drawings, sculptures, the stones. I think the silence is somewhere between the inhale and exhale. Moreover, I enjoy that state of mind when i play billiard. I feel the pure silence inside my mind in the moment between the strike of white ball and the moment in which it hits the other colored balls. It doesn’t matter the noise or music around me. I feel the silence.

II Space

II Space

Man, Lithuania | Silence is space

For me the silence is just being alone with our thoughts and it is a mental status but also physical even if, i think, the mental one is more useful for us. [he means for our well-being, editor’s note].
When someone is going to be alone physically, the mind could be still full of thoughts about the work, different people’s problems and so on. If you are alone, you will be able to decide properly what do you want about something. It is possible because you are relaxed, in company with yourself and your thoughts. For me, this is one way for experiencing the silence.
I like the silence. When i want to be alone i do not usually listen even the music. I like to be in company only with myself and my thoughts that are very important to me. Silence structures my thoughts
In addition, the relationship between silence and photography is very meaningful for me [the interviewee is a photography student, editor’s note]. When you see a photograph you do not hear anything, you just see, however the image is speaking to you. In that moment, you start to associate things with others things that arouse inside you emotions.
Also when i take a photograph, i start to isolate everything in order to focus on taking the image.

III Peace

III Peace

Man, Poland | Silence is peace

In my opinion, silence is a way to find inner peace. Moreover it lets me rest from stress. My flat or my bad.
Usually when i am experiencing the silence, I really don’t care about what happening outside. Inside I am alone with my thoughts and my needs.

IV Forest

IV Forest

Man, Finland | Silence is forest

I highly value silence, silence means freedom to me.
I usually experience it during my walks in the forest. In that moment, all the stress from life disappears and I feel finally in peace.

V Pain

V Pain

Woman, Poland | Silence is pain

Silence is something very important and powerful for me… something that we need in life. But it can appear in many various forms – it can make us feel good as well as bad. We usually connect silence with calmness and then it is its most beautiful side, which can create the feeling of peace in our minds… not always though.
For me too much silence can easily become an enemy, in many different situations. Sometimes it’s just that simple that it lets your unwanted thoughts spread around your head and you simply can’t turn them off, while more noise would just silence them.
Then there comes the wrong kind of silence… either if you lose someone you love or someone close uses it as a kind of weapon towards you, which literally can be the worst kind of psychical torture.

Before having more experience about silence, it was rather something good for me. Just some years ago first thought about silence would be connected to the peaceful view of the calm sea at the hour of sunrise when in my eyesight there is no one else, but some birds flying over water and what you hear is just their silent screams and some little waves crashing onto the shore… peace, loneliness, beautiful morning light and the feeling of being disconnected from all the rest of the world (that creates both positive and also negative feelings).

Within last years my view of it has changed entirely, when i experienced its other side. The silence, that becomes the worst kind of psychical torture, which lasts for hours, days or weeks: when you need an answer but you don’t get it, when you are not alone, but feel like you’re the loneliest in the world, when there is another person next to you, someone that you love, and there is just darkness and silence between that creates the biggest distance even though you’re just next to each other.

When you need to hear something from them, but there is nothing and you only see their empty, cold eyes staring into the space, like you are not even there, like you don’t matter at all… and the only real thing around you is silence. Which lasts forever. When finally it ends, you don’t even know what was wrong, you’re just too glad about that the silence has finally ended. It feels like it’s slowly killing you inside, tearing you apart. You just can’t stand the silence anymore… Everything inside you is screaming while outside there is nothing more but the dark, heavy silence, which is growing and growing… some hours last like forever and there is no way out, but just inside of yourself.


Silentivm is a photographic project regarding the conceptual topic of the silence and its meaning attribution.

The silence, in this project, is seen as a mental phenomenon and not only as the absence of sound. The research aims to investigate one intimate side of our mind that is part of everyone but, however, capable to generate a significant quantity of different effects in each of us.

Through interviews and meaningful portraits, this photographic work tried to give a body to a complex topic difficult to circumscribe in well defined behavioural patterns.


View the “Making of”

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