Old Times with Olafur

I recently saw (and wrote about) the brilliant blockbuster show of Olafur Eliasson’s work at the Tate Modern.  I also have history with Olafur. I don’t know him, but I do remember seeing his huge installation The Weather Project at the Tate in 2003, aged 19.

Back then I was 19, had recently dropped out of University and moved to London on my own. I lived in Mile End, a long time before it got trendy or gentrified. I worked in a small office in central London, and by small, I mean literally small, 5m x 5m – a single room. No breakout areas, no meeting rooms, just two desks facing each wall. I didn’t know anyone in London apart from my two cousins who lived in Wembley, and that wasn’t exactly nearby. I sometimes went out with the 3 Manchester graduate guys I lived with. I wasn’t unhappy, but looking back now I realise that sometimes I felt quite alone.

But somehow during that period I found my way to some things which have stuck with me in adult life. I went to my first ever yoga class in a council hall somewhere in East London. I would go and see art shows. And somehow I found my way to a Black and White Photography course at Tower Hamlets Adult Education College.

I learnt how to develop my own film and print my own prints. I learnt the basic physics of how a manual SLR camera works. And I loved it. Somehow it gave me a way to be looking at the world, that felt less conspicuous. I felt like it gave me an excuse, a reason, a cover that let me spend time looking and I suppose, time figuring out how I might fit into the world. I don’t think I was aware of that at the time, but in retrospect I think that’s what was going on. I remember feeling deliciously anonymous behind the camera. That people saw a photographer, and I was hidden, free to look, watch and wait.

And one of things I photographed in this time was Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project in 2003. He installed a huge ‘sun’ in the Turbine Hall, the atmosphere was filled with a fine gauzy mist and bathed with a strange warm yellow light. It was beautifully atmoshpheric and people came and lounged around in the space. Basked and bathed, inside, on the concrete floors.

I was so pleased to find  some of my prints and contact sheets from the show: