Sonder: a five volumes photographic project


Sonder is a five volumes 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.

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‘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 Rossella’s work.


Her journey started in the area of Soho, London, beginning with Violet, an 89 year old lady. Rossella asked Violet to pose for her 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 the artist to establish an authentic connection with her subject. Consequently, she started seeing Violet on a daily basis, chatting, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes together. Whilst spending time with her, Violet introduced Rossella to four other individuals, each one of them has subsequently led the photographer to somebody else, creating an exponential effect. Each book is a journey from beginning to end, from one initial character to many others. The text through out the books helps the reader to immerse himself completely into these intimate journeys. The text is simple, clear, essential, as these characters are.


This work is both a photographic and introspective journey into these character’s personal lives. The photographer looked around attentively, trying to establish short but intense bonds with her subjects, and to capture these vivid moments in photographs. Her journeys are based on trust and human engagement; there is a delicate balance between all people in the story, a thin thread that led her from one character to another, an essential thread that holds the narrative together. It is necessary to say that, while these subjects were strangers to the artist, she was in primis an outsider herself in their lives, who was then invited to join their community in Soho. She did not force her way in, everything came naturally without hesitation. These characters confided in her, and she unto them. With no artistic plan or expectation, Rossella stepped into this photographic journey not even questioning herself where exactly she would have arrived.

About the author:
Rossella Castello, born 1994, is an Italian photographer and visual artist, currently based in London. She holds a BA in Photographic Arts achieved at University of Westminster, London. Her photobook ‘Sonder’ has currently been shortlisted at OrganVida Festival, Zagreb and it would also be part of International Photobook Exhibition 2016 run by RPS (Royal Photographic Society).

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