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A Meditation on Melancholy

Posted by on January 13, 2017 | Photographer Interviews

The feeling Eliso Tsintsabadze aims to convey in her series “Sylvan Sadness” is not something easily expressed in words. The name is the translated title of a poem by Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov, “Lesnaya Toska,” a translation she feels doesn’t do the phrase justice. “In dictionaries, the Russian word toska is described as some sort of melancholia, sadness, silence, yearning and anguish,” she explains, “but it does not have the proper equivalent in English.”

A Georgian native, born and raised in Moscow, Tsintsabadze began the series while studying at the International Center of Photography in New York City last year. She began sorting through images she had recently taken, and saw that certain ones embodied the same ineffable mood.

For a year, she continued to add to the series, but was careful not to search for toska itself because she didn’t want the images to appear contrived. “It was all sort of intuitive,” she explains. The series, she says, is not about happiness or sadness, but “it is a pure experience of my mind of moments I came to, and the images are just the points on this way.”

The series includes a photograph of an artificial bird in a tree, natural light falling across a wooded area in Tbilisi, Georgia, and a delicate portrait of her niece. Each one transmits the ache of beauty that one sometimes encounters in the mundane, usually in moments of deep contemplation.

­ —Brienne Walsh

Photos © Eliso Tsintsabadze

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This article originally appeared in Emerging Photographer Winter 2016.


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