You’re scared of room 237, ain’t ya?
A longtime and diehard fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and a bona fide Yosemite junkie, I’ve always viewed the interior of the Ahwahnee Hotel with a mixture of awe and dread. One can be forgiven if—upon first entering the grand hotel—he feels as though he’s just stepped from what John Muir called “the great temple,” into the lobby and great hall of the horrible Overlook Hotel. In fact, if there is a break in the illusion, it is that the common spaces of the Ahwahnee, rather than pregnant with foreboding silence, are overflowing with visitors.
This resemblance is no accident of course. Mr. Kubrick designed his set (especially the Colorado Room and the lobby) to mimic the Ahwahnee, and indeed, I have a hard time seeing the chandeliers, rugs, tables and windows of this hotel without imagining Mr. Torrance clacking away upon his Adler upon one of the long, sturdy tables, smiling menacingly amidst the tourists and hikers come to catch a few moments rest by the enormous fireplace. All work and no play …
The great coup of The Shining was its replacement of Stephen King’s extensive backstory with a brooding atmosphere and a churning sense of doom. Mr. King allegedly hated it, but the rest of us fell in love with the film. No other film adaptation of Mr. King’s work risen to the mark that Stanley Kubrick set.
Now, Mr. Kubrick was a hell of a still photographer in his own right, and, for my money, it is no coincidence that he possessed a preternatural capability for creating mood. The greatest trick in still photography is to create a sense of place, to render a three-dimensional, flesh and blood world in the rectangular space of an emulsion or a computer screen replete with a taste of the subject’s emotive power. Now, there can be no argument that Mr. Kubrick achieved at least that throughout the film.
For my own part, I am fascinated with the reality that serves as the foundation for imagination and dreams. I’ve spent considerable time photographing The University of Chicago both because it served as the backdrop for a decade my own adventures and because it carries with it a germ of Oxford, one of many templates for Hogwart’s.
I can be forgiven then for long planning to shoot the Ahwahnee interiors. “But,” I always asked myself, “how to capture the silence and desolation that so defined the film?” How could I turn The Ahwahnee into The Overlook?
The answer came with a winter bug that laid me low; feeling feverish and fortunate enough to be a guest, I sneaked out of bed late one night, closed the door gently behind me, and stepped into the long, carpeted hallways of The Overlook Hotel.
The Colorado Room
Why did the the floor in front of the elevators needed a deep clean?
I’ll leave that to your imagination.