Sitting into the limelight: Lonely Chairs at CERN turns one

A picture may be worth a thousand words - but a picture of a chair? It’s worth a story all by itself. Over the past year, the "Lonely Chairs at CERN" photography blog has let the chairs do the talking. Along the way, these chairs have inspired and enchanted people across the globe with their honest depiction of the Laboratory.


This lonely chair outside Building 32 was one of the first Rebeca photographed.

When CMS physicist Rebeca Gonzalez Suarez created Lonely Chairs at CERN back in April 2014, she was not expecting the immediate reaction it garnered. Within days, the blog had picked up thousands of followers and was featured in Gizmodo and The Guardian. "The response inside CERN was very positive, but the response outside was overwhelming," says Rebeca. "I’ve got a lot of followers who are really into science and are very excited about CERN. They comment about wanting to work here - sometimes on the ugliest chair I’ve posted."

The blog showcases an older, perhaps grittier side of the Laboratory - one that is very familiar to people at CERN but that can be somewhat surprising to the rest of the world. "I like CERN the way it is and sometimes it’s difficult to show what it looks like on the inside," says Rebeca. "What makes CERN so unique, and what I like most, is that it’s been here for 60 years and you can tell. That’s a good thing. It helps put you and your work into context. People were working here before you, and they were doing the same things that you are doing - maybe even using the same chair.” 

In the shadow of CMS, a chair stands alone.

"Everyone likes to have new things," she continues. "All the new buildings and new elevators are great... but the spirit of CERN is also to be found in the old stuff. New things can be practical and pretty, but they are lacking in history. I like best the character you find in old things."

As Lonely Chairs at CERN nears 20,000 followers, Rebeca has no plans to slow down: "I am wondering when people will get tired of chairs, or when I will simply run out of them. But so far I still have lots to go." As for her own chair? Rebeca assures us that it’s just as bleak: "My chair is really, really old - I have no idea how many physicists have sat on it but... a lot."

by Katarina Anthony