Seated Messenger

Seated Messenger

©Mickan Palmquist: “15 year-old Greta Thunberg is school striking for the climate outside Riksdagen. She will sit here everyday until the election.” Stockholm, 21.08.2018/ DN / TT / NTB Scanpix

A sign, a girl, a school rucksack in front of a masonry building. A trivial subject or iconic image? The image recount something about a significant event in history; the start of a movement. What can we interpret and decipher out of this image in front of us?

Greta Thunberg is sat on the ground in front of a massive stone building, where the Swedish nation’s political power resides. Next to her we see an indication of another person's shoulder. She is herself dressed in colourful clothing with her rucksack resting by her leg. The purple rucksack, most likely full of textbooks, gives us an essential clue regarding her current situation. She was supposed to go to school, but chooses instead to strike. The text on the sign clearly states the overall motive and reason for this.

Thunberg made a smart move by using the power of youths; the option of dropping out of school in order to get their message across to the politicians: that we are in the middle of a climate crisis and something has to be done about it now! The 20th of August 2018 was the start of a strike intended to continue up until the Swedish election in September the same year. Photographer Mickan Palmquist took this picture the day after the first strike, allowing us in 2020 to look back upon it as an iconic image.

This photo shows us a person who inspired a mass of school children to shout loud and mobilise themselves to the climate movement, effectively forcing state leaders around the world to answer for their inaction. In 2019 Thunberg received a range of awards. She was awarded Name of the Year by Time Magazine as well as nominated for the Nobel Peace Price. She even crossed the Atlantic in a sailing boat. At that moment when this image was taken, this was a future that has yet to come to pas. Today our different interpretations of this photo is imbued with these stories.