Without any planning or thought I came to this photo shot in the Turbine Hall of London’s Tate Modern Museum exactly nine years ago, today. Over the last couple of days I have been looking for an archive image to post and had a quick look at this, and other images from this time, yesterday afternoon. I have to admit I didn’t put a lot of thought into when it was shot, other than knowing it was shot in November of 2003 in London. To be honest I’ve taken this image for granted for the better part of a decade, I’ve never investigated the artist or the installation piece, I’ve always just accepted that this surreal scene was interesting to me and to others. In fact it is one of the few images of my own, other than newspaper clippings that I have hanging in my apartment.
You can learn new things about old photographs and what I learned this morning about my own photograph is that this piece, called The Weather Project, started out as an idea conceived by Danish Artist Olafur Eliasson during a rare snow in London. It is, in some part, a response to discussion about global warming while suggesting something mystical or almost religious to the people seated on the floor of the great hall. The Tate’s Turbine Hall has been called the most frightening gallery space in the world, but clearly for the people taking a respite from November rain, it was something of a refuge suggesting warmth and light.
It was a surprise to me, making my way into the hall and seeing so many people seated on the concrete floor. It was so wet and so cold walking the Thames embankment that afternoon that this thing high above us felt otherworldly. The Weather Project has been described as apocalyptic, a terrifying beauty and accused of stripping it’s viewers of their individuality. While my limited education in Art History helps me understand these comments, this was not my experience that day. To me, and others, the concrete floor was a surrogate for a sandy beach, and the light overhead a surrogate for something which felt long absent from London’s November skyline.
Within a few days of making this photo, I was en route home to Vancouver having spent nearly 290 nights on the road that year. To me this image is something far simpler than what I have described thus far. It is a reminder of getting out of the rain, imagining the warmth of a setting sun, and exploring London with someone who I had become close with after spending months walking London on my own. Let photography take you places, let it be a reminder of where you’ve been and a fantasy for places you’d like to go. Be curious, be transported, be present and be ready with your camera without compromising your personal experience.