Namibian Dream - PhMuseum

Namibian Dream

Gabriela Zoldova

2017 - Ongoing

Pursuing the Dream

“If you can’t live off it, it is useless”. My mum and my grandparents were talking about photography: my dream, my passion, my everything ! I still recall the first time I held a camera in my hand, although according to my mum it was my favourite toy already as a toddler. I remember at the age of six hiding in my grandpa’s darkroom where he used to develop our family photos. I was particularly impressed by the beauty of the images that was able to come out of a simple negative film. A magic? I got my first camera at the age of seven, all ready for our first abroad trip to the UK, which would later on in my life became my new home. At the time I was pretty happy just to get the image straight. My shots were very simple, my grandmother being the main subject and a town or a landscape in the background. But something inside me changed - the unconditional happiness I felt when taking photographs was very different to the feelings I had when practicing other hobbies. But parents and society hardly ever pay attention to your dreams when you are that small, at the end of the day there is no barrier to a child’s curiosity and kids do tend to change their mind every five minutes. Who would imagine then that some 26 years later photography would become the biggest hobby of mine.

I was born in a small town called Podborany, in the Czech Republic and grew up with my mum and my grandparents who mean the world to me. Although I had an extremely happy childhood I kept dreaming of far away places and cultures that I wanted to discover. As a huge fan of nature and wildlife, Africa was particularly intriguing. Although we travelled around Europe, we could not afford far away travels at that time. At the age of 20 I came to the UK to improve my English. It meant to be just a few months break between high school and University, but thirteen years later I am still here. It was right at the beginning of my stay that I met my partner and realised that we had one big hobby in common: Photography. Eventually he stopped taking photos when he realised I would not lend him our camera anymore. We started travelling the world together - me, always with camera in my hand, I started discovering new techniques.

When it came to a career choice, I knew what I loved the most but I just never saw it as a viable career option. Instead of listening to my heart, I decided to stick to the advice my family had given me. I successfully pursued my Bachelor and my MSc studies in Finance and over the long five years at the University I managed to persuade myself that Finance-related career was exactly what I wanted to do in life. However, during those years as a student I never gave up my passion for photography. On the contrary, I kept it close to my heart and continued to nurture it. Working part-time allowed me to buy my first DSLR camera and with the help of both mine and my partner’s family I managed to buy few lenses. When not at the University or writing assignments, I would be out there taking photos of the beautiful nature that surrounds us. I started to think in “pictures”. Whether it was a person, a landscape, a flower or an animal I began to imagine all the beautiful photos I could have taken under different light exposures. It became a real frustration not being able to have my camera on me all the time. Another beautiful sunset lost, a butterfly that’s just flown by without me being able to capture it. The frustration became even more real when I started working full time. Working, commuting and everyday duties meant less time for things I really loved and enjoyed. More city smog and less nature and me sitting on the train overlooking the beautiful sunrise, another one that will remain only in my memory. Despite several positive things in my career, I began to feel empty inside, like if someone took a bigger piece of my heart and tore it apart. I only came alive when I held a camera in my hand.

The most life changing experience came with few travels to East and West Africa over the past few years, with the most recent trips to Tanzania and Namibia. Finally, my childhood dream and my biggest passion met and there is me climbing up the trees to take a great shot of Columbus monkeys. No wonder they say that traveling opens your mind. Not only we learn about different countries and cultures, but most importantly, each journey we embark on, we learn something new about ourselves. Although I have learnt and developed in my career over the past few years, the signs have always been very clear. It will not be an easy journey to go back to the initial crossroad in order to chose the right path this time, but a dream has never come true over night. Patience, determination and true love is what drive us to accomplish our goals.

Despite social media, evolving technology and ever-increasing competition in photography, I have decided to give myself another chance in order to be able to do what I really love. I am by no means the best photographer in the world and I am fully aware of the risks - the risk of failing, the risk of not being able to live off photography. But what can go wrong? Photography will always remain the biggest passion of my life no matter where I will be ten years down the line. It has taught me to appreciate the little things in life and to pay attention to details that no-one sees, whether it is a raindrop on top of a leaf or a tiny fly sitting on my monitor at work. We often wait for big things in life to happen, for the next holiday but what photography has made me realise is that the next big adventure may be waiting just round the corner of your house. Photography has taught me to appreciate and cherish the beautiful nature and cultural diversity around us. It has taught me respect for all people and creatures, whether it is a huge elephant standing right in front of me or an ant crossing the road. Thanks to photography I am able to see the beauty in each and every single one of us. No matter what the future brings, these values will forever stay deeply embedded in my heart.

We often imagine failing as something we are not good at, something that did not go quite right the way we imagined. But to me failing means giving up before you even try. And here I am, ready to pursue yet the biggest dream of my life, the dream of becoming a professional photographer. It won’t happen over night but it will eventually happen. Winning this photography grant would mean the world to me, an opportunity to touch the stars.

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