Inspired by everything Sri Lankan

Stefan D’Silva, domiciled in Australia for more than 30 years shares the beauty of his motherland through his collection of photographs, now brought out as a book and website
By Shalomi Daniel

He is passionate about photography and everything Sri Lankan, even though he has been working in Australia as a Superintendent in the Prison Service (properly called the Corrective Services New South Wales) for the past 32 years.

In Stefan D’Silva’s book of photographs ‘Sri Lanka-A Way of Life’, launched this January, he uses his skills in photography to showcase the exquisite beauty of Sri Lanka to the world.

Stefan D’Silva

As a five-year-old he used to listen enthralled to stories related by his uncle on wildlife and especially of elephants holding up trains. This uncle, an engine driver stationed in Trincomalee and other parts of the country also presented Stefan with his book on wildlife, a subject young Stefan soon fell in love with.
Then there were the days of exciting jungle trips with his brother-in-law who was a tea planter. These were shooting trips that he is now not proud of. However, his having to retrieve a deer that he had shot on one such trip to Wellawaya at the age of 17 brought that to a decisive end. “I swapped shooting with a gun for shooting with a camera,” he says.

He was able to obtain his first camera- a Minolta only when he got a full time job in Australia. On his first trip back home he had a hectic schedule, which included getting engaged, and visiting Yala!

He has continued to visit Sri Lanka very often - and this is what inspired him to compile this book. Though he left for Down Under nearly 34 years ago, he says that in a sense “I never really ‘left’ the land of my birth.” He also launched his website to show the beauty of the country.
His ardent and genuine love for the island is evident as he explores the exotic complexity of the land, the people, places, ancient history and everything Sri Lankan that in his words “inspires me and excites the imagination.”

He hopes this book would prove to be a bridge that would connect Sri Lankans all over the world with the land of their birth.

“One of the great things about designing and producing this book is I got to re-live every moment of every photograph many times over,” he says. He added “This Sri Lanka fills my soul not just my sense of vision” as he relives the memories that come flooding back as he reminisces about the incidents connected to his pictures. He sees this as the most therapeutic work that he has ever done.
There are many fond memories of incidents that occurred on his photography trips.

Watching a female leopard for about an hour as she tried to make a meal of a rotting Sambhur carcass to attempting to fathom how a bird as delicate as the “Bat-tich-chaas” or the Sun Bird survives the elements on a day to day basis filled him with appreciation of the natural wonders. He gives up trying to point out specific memories saying that “all of it was memorable” even the journeys back and forth and the hot ‘kahata’ tea in roadside kades’.

Speaking of his personal favourites he talks about the picture of the inside of a ‘Kade’. Sri Lankans should not forget that these ‘kades’ have been around even before the introduction of supermarkets, computers, modern conveniences and liveried staff and still manage to provide impeccable service, he says. It serves as a reminder to us modern folk who pollute the environment with plastic bags that Sri Lanka used and one part of it still uses an eco-friendly newspaper ‘gotta’ tied with string.

One of his pictures is of a Kingfisher with a mouse in its beak while another depicts the kingfisher devouring a scorpion. These paradoxes of nature are captured by his expert photography and highlights what Stefan seeks to point out- “if people took a few seconds to observe what is in their gardens they may well be in for an amazing discovery.”

Stefan he hopes to capture the North East of Sri Lanka - ravaged by war and as a result not accessible for 30 years in his next book. “I hope I am not too late to capture images of the ‘vanishing’ North- East” he says adding that he had already started on his first shoot.

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