Sonder is a five-volume photographic project presented in a box set. ‘Sonder’ is a fictional term coined by John Koenig - author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows - who composes words and associates them to specific concepts he thinks are missing from the English dictionary. ‘Sonder’, as Koenig states, is “the realisation that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own;” however, while living this life, there are “thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed” named as extras, “in which you might appear only once.” Koenig’s concept is the common thread through out my work.
My journey started in the area of Soho, London, beginning with Violet, an 89-year-old lady. I asked her to pose for me while having her picture taken. This short-lived moment has been frozen through the medium of photography. This simple connection of taking a portrait is what has enabled me to establish an authentic connection with her. Consequently, I started seeing her on a daily basis, chatting, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes together. Whilst spending time with her, she introduced me to four other individuals; each one of them has subsequently led me to somebody else, creating an exponential effect. Each book is a journey from beginning to end, from one initial character to many others. With no artistic plan or expectation, I stepped into this photographic journey not even questioning myself where exactly I would have arrived.
I was walking down Berwick Street when I saw her. At the same time, a guy was passing down the street: ‘She is the Queen of Berwick Street!’, he shouted.
So I photographed her. She looked fabulous. Her name is Violet. She has been living in Soho for 89 years. She never left this neighbourhood.
Someone told me that Violet has never had a proper job.
Since she was young, she has always just been hanging around Soho.
Chatting and stopping strangers has always been her favourite activity.
Even after more than 80 years of patrolling Soho’s streets, she is still doing that same thing.
I will always be really thankful to Violet and her social habits.
She agreed to have her picture taken, and she remembered me six months later.
If it wasn’t for Violet, I would have never started this project.
Violet sits at this project’s heart - from her, all four journeys began, all connections were made.
Elisabeth was the first character who did not tell me to go and meet someone.
‘Do you take pictures of buildings as well?’ she asked
‘I do... sometimes…’
‘I see… so you prefer taking pictures of people right? You should take pictures of buildings too!’
She suggested that I should go to the last school left in Soho. ‘It doesn’t look like a school, I promise you,’ she said.
So I took her advice.
I was having a coffee with Violet when she suddenly looked at me and asked: ‘Have you ever met Pasquale?’
‘Not yet,’ I replied.
‘You should meet him then.
‘He is Italian, you are Italian, so I am sure you would get along… really well!’
Pasquale has been living in Soho for 45 years.
He barely remembers how to speak Italian properly.
One day he said to me: ‘Do you want to come and see my shop? I am not sure whether you would like it though…’
‘Why?’ I asked
‘I would say it’s pretty old-fashioned…’ he replied
This is what I found…
George is 73 years old. Born in Brick Lane, but raised in Soho, he still retains his East End accent.
He’s a painter.
George has several different outfits. He seems to have a different one for each day of the week.
’I sold some pain’ings recently an’ I got some money; so I said to my tailor:
“Mark, can ew make me a double-breasted, pinstripe jacket, which can go wiv the trousers that I’d already got a while back?”
‘Also, I’d ‘ave a hat made as well;
char-cole grey, dis stylal, wiv a wide black band, char-cole grey, an’ a bow; an’at goes wiv the suit.
But ever’time I buy a suit an’ ‘at, I need a new pair of shoes.’
Geoff invited me to visit his place during night time.
He has several extraordinary collections.
‘I have…robots, space, robots in a room, the space room…
…monsters, monsters playing drums, fish, weird things…
…and some other stuff.
The flat is small but quite crowded.'