In February 2016, a friend forwarded me an email announcing Tate was looking for Volunteers. I knew very little about Contemporary Art, but Tate was accommodating in teaching us.
I have been a professional photographer since 1985, covering News, PR and Corporate events – Steve Daszko
I was Volunteer Visitor Host at Tate Modern for three years and then switched to Tate Britain, where I still am part of the team.
When the first lockdown started in March last year, Tate, like all Art Galleries, suffered. Towards the end of last year, I decided to undertake my own photo project entitled “Museums and Art Galleries in lockdown”, only shooting images at night, when it became clear that the lockdown was here to stay.
All the images were taken in the late afternoon, around 5 pm, when all these institutions would usually have been open. I tried to show how eerie they all looked with no visitors to be seen. Yet they all remained splendidly lit up at night.
The only exception was Tate Britain, as The Winter Commission still attracted loads of people. Most other institutions were deserted, almost like a scene from a sci-fi movie, where nearly everybody has been wiped out.
When Tate reopened, on the 27th July, visitors were quick to return to the Art Galleries and Museums. After the first lockdown restrictions were eased, Tate Britain was very busy from the reopening day and my Volunteer role was renamed as a ‘Welcome and Reassurance’ role.
Despite the enhanced restrictions, all the visitors at Tate Britain followed the one-way signage without complaining. They realised it was for everybody’s safety.
Seeing all these internationally renowned Museums and Art Galleries closed again is very difficult to take in. In difficult times like these, looking at Paintings, Sculptures, and historical objects juxtaposed with magnificent architecture is essential for people’s mental health. Until this pandemic is under control, we will continue to be denied this right that we have taken for granted for so many years.
Large areas such as The Great Court, The Turbine Hall, the Hintze Hall and The Duveen Galleries can easily accommodate large visitor numbers while retaining social distancing without problems.
All of the images in my photo-essay were taken either in “raw” format or “night mode” with very little post-editing needed.
All these institutions need to reopen as soon as they can safely accommodate visitors. People are missing Art and all the mental health benefits that come with it.
Institutions are suffering badly. Visitors pay to see the world-class blockbuster exhibitions which our museums are known to mount. The restaurants and gift shops ensure that the shows are financially viable.