On Valentine’s Day in 2014, Ruvan Wijesooriya organized “Love Tunnel,” a DIY installation of photographs in a subway tunnel in New York City. Today, Wijesooriya is staging the show for the fourth time, taping photos to the tile walls of a stretch of underground walkway, for visitors to take with them. Wijesooriya began the project using his own photographs but this year he put out a call to others, and received more than 100 submissions from around the world, from “mainly professional creatives and photographers,” he tells PDN by email. Among them are images by Brad Ogbonna, Jessica Dimmock, Elsa Brightling, Felix Swensson, Isabella Stahl, Peter Kaaden, Peter Sutherland, Lane Coder and others.
The project began when Wijesooriya couldn’t find a gallery to help him give away his images. “I had hundreds of photos of people kissing and I wanted the people in the photos to have them as a gift from me to them on Valentine’s Day.” He decided to do it himself, “in the MTA tunnel under 14th Street between 6th and 7th [Avenues] in 2014. At the time the tunnel was called the “Tunnel of Despair,” so it was partially a beautification project and a way of engaging with the city as an artist.” Wijesooriya says he likes how “vandalistic” the installation feels, but notes that the walls get “cleaned up as people take the photos home with them.”
Wijesooriya was moved by the reaction to the first show. “After seeing kids so excited about the art and a few older ladies crying tears of joy, I felt that it was something I should do every year,” he says. The project was “in essence my love letter to NYC, and because I have always thought Valentine’s Day was on overhyped day replete with crappy weather and people stressing out about being loved or not being loved, this was a way for me to celebrate and give,” he says.