Emily George

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The Ritual 


The ancient ritual of Sauna bathing is deeply rooted in the culture of northern Europe and is quickly growing in popularity due to its profound physical and mental wellbeing benefits.

I wanted to capture the blissful state that can be reached through sauna bathing, through documenting people pre and post ritual.

From the hot to the cold to the hot to the cold the sauna offers a contrasting tempo to the everyday, an alternative space that is devoid of judgement and everyday anxieties. From the intense heat of the wood fired sauna to the immediate plunge into cold waters, time and temperate cease to exist... the endorphins run wild throughout your body and all worries dissolve into a swirling galaxy of euphoria as you are transported to another dimension. You are willingly forced to loose yourself in the only moment that truly exists, right now.

The sauna ritual is an ancient tradition, rooted in history, mythology, religion and spirituality. In Finnish folk tales the Löyly (steam created from pouring water on to the hot rocks of the stove) is said to be the breath of the gods. Saunas are beginning to pop up more throughout urban spaces as the demand is growing, providing refuge and comfort amidst the chaos and distractions of our modern busy city lives, and this life affirming ritual is teaching us that what was important thousands of years ago is still much the same today.

Within the sauna you are not being judged on what you are wearing, your job role, whether you are married, have kids, don’t have kids, like to wear socks with sandals, walk really slowly on busy streets or like pineapple on pizza… you are all equal and there with one common goal in mind, to cleanse, reconnect with your body and others through the coming together of this shared experience, and re-connect with nature through the elements of fire, water and earth.

I hope these photos make you feel that same sense of calm and peace that is felt from the individuals photographed in this project.