Finding inner peace through quiet places

Artist and photographer Siobhan Wall has created a series of ‘quiet’ city photo books using her images to lead the reader to tranquil places she has discovered throughout Amsterdam, London and shortly, Paris (4 April 2013).  These locations could be anywhere from a parks, lakes and woods to libraries, restaurants and health spas. This is what quietness means to Siobhan.

Beatrix Park.  © Siobhan Wall

Flowers in Beatrix Park, Amsterdam.

For me, quietness is not just about finding somewhere beautiful to look at, although this really helps.  It is also about listening to my body and being a bit more aware of how I’m feeling at that moment.

Writing at the computer can make me forget that I am made of muscles, sinews, bones and tendons–and that they also need some care and attention. I get fully immersed in editing an article and after a few hours, I suddenly find my shoulders ache.

So, I go to a yoga class once a week to help me recover a sense of calm and give quiet attention to my body. I choose a gentle, meditative class because this helps me slow down and stops me thinking about all the many projects I’m working on!

I also spend time doing drawings in my studio – I ‘follow’ what my thoughts are rather than plan in advance what I’ll make, and some surprising images appear on the paper. It is a bit like being in a beautiful trance – I can forget the outside world and just concentrate for a few hours on what my fingers are doing with the paint and charcoal.

It helps having a husband who is quite self-sufficient so I can disappear at the weekend and he knows I am happy painting and drawing in a large, warm, quiet studio! I think it’s important to have the contrast between the writing and the drawing, (and the cycling)–so that different kinds of quietness can emerge. I would get bored just doing one thing.

Inspiration behind the Quiet books

Before moving to Amsterdam, I taught photography, video production and cultural studies at a university in London. The location was an ugly building in the middle of a busy roundabout, and my work entailed spending a lot of time cooped up indoors in darkrooms and editing suites. I missed seeing trees and sitting in parks.

I decided to try and find green spaces in the City of London to visit over lunchtime.  I had already started my voyage of discovery when I found out I had Menières Disease, which makes me dizzy.  Two of the symptoms are deafness and an over sensitivity to noise. I started to ask friends if we could meet up in quiet cafes or restaurants, otherwise I couldn’t join in a conversation. A few months later, my husband decided that the only way to stop me working too hard was to take me away to another country and because we like cycling, we ended up in Amsterdam.

Quiet Amsterdam

I decided one way to explore my newly adopted city was to cycle around finding quiet places and then to publish my own book of the most idyllic locations.  When I had gathered around 150 places, Quiet Amsterdam was published in 2008.

Amsterdamse Bos. © Siobhan Wall

The large lake ‘grote meer’ at Amsterdamse Bos.

I created Quiet London in 2010 – and I’m glad that the places I went to were quiet! I often felt as if I needed my book as I was travelling round London… Every time I found another entrancing garden or small cafe, it was like finding hidden treasure.

De Nieuwe Diep Distillerij in Flevopark.

Launching Quiet Paris

Quiet Paris reveals many of Paris’ hidden jewels — small museums, tearooms and cafes, gardens and art galleries.

“It will tell you the perfect place to enjoy thoughtful conversation about the gardens you have seen, the books you have read and the food you have tasted in this entrancing city,” says Siobhan.

Quiet Paris is scheduled to be published  4 April 2013.

Book signing in Paris
Siobhan Wall signs her book 9 April 9, 6pm at WH Smith 248, rue de Rivoli 75001, Paris.

Book signing in Amsterdam
Siobhan will also be signing copies at the launch of Quiet Paris in Amsterdam on Saturday, 13 April at 15:00 at the American Book Centre, Spui, Amsterdam.

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