Gøneja – Rituals

Review by Gerhard Clausing

Is ‘normal’ boring, is ‘unorthodox’ exciting? And what are YOUR definitions and expectations?

In a way we are all performance artists. We present ourselves to the rest of the world in many forms and guises. To represent our style, to express particular personal meanings or beliefs and rituals – to the outside world these may be registered as distinctive differences. To echo Shakespeare, we have our entrances and exits, and in our lives we may play many parts. The outside appearance of individuals need to be considered in conjunction with what goes on inside of them to see what they may be about. And portrayals that go beyond the surface are certainly preferred.

Gøneja is a photographer in Berlin who has a special aptitude for catching a multitude of shades of meaning and a more comprehensive view of the younger crowd he photographs in that multicultural city and elsewhere. Some are singers or dancers, while most are less public persons who also strive for a distinctive look. Tattoos are a contemporary way to externalize personal meanings, as are piercings and styles of clothing – ways to connect some of the internal with the external, and to share some of that with others. And then there is the connection between the photographer and the person being photographed, as well as their collaboration – special rituals indeed.

The substantial cover of this book has a leather-like appearance, impossible to show in a reproduction as seen above, with silver-foil stamping, so it feels as if you are opening a hymnal, a book of ancient songs, or a small volume of ancient secrets. The persons depicted in this book are seekers of their truths, incorporating wisdom from the past into their urban context. They are shown in moments of being at peace with their spirituality, which is communicated visually and verbally.

Some examples of those portrayed are Pauline, whose roots in Norse mythology and plans to explore the world are evident, Aga, whose love of reptiles is presented in the Gøneja’s photographs, and Kareem, an Egyptian-Australian Dervish and Sufi practitioner shown in his meditation dance – urban mysticism in the midst of concrete architecture. This project is a celebration of diversity – it doesn’t get more diverse than what Gøneja has captured.

The prose and poetry additions by Meev Eve, in the same spirit, constitute a very creative context supporting these portrait capsules, as are photographs of some monuments of the past, both from Northern and Southern Europe, that remind us of generations long gone that also pondered the purpose of life.  Some short quotes that give us glimpses of each individual’s point of view are also interspersed and give us further insights. It is refreshing to see the combined spirituality, determination and purpose of all these persons, with a view that encompasses the past as well as the future.

This photobook, as it presents a number of sections with particular individuals, is well-paced and contains well-printed color images throughout. One gets a very good sense of the individual context for each subset of portraits, and it is particularly enjoyable to get the feeling that sharing one’s life through photographs is perceived to be a liberating experience.

Rituals, a celebration of diversity and life itself, is an important contribution, as it shows a comprehensive portrayal of a range of distinctive and dynamic individuals within a contemporary urban context.


Gøneja – Rituals

Photographer: Gøneja (born in Milan, Italy; lives in Berlin, Germany)

Self-published, Berlin, Germany; © 2020

Prose and Poetry: Meev Eve

Language: English

Hardback, sewn; 104 pages, unpaginated; 16 x 21.5 cm (6.5 x 8.5 inches); printed in Germany

Photo Editor: Leandro Favaloro

Photobook Designer: Gøneja


Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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