Personal Work from the Archive – The Hotel Room Project
“I do not think that when in a hotel you have to feel “at home”, on the contrary, you have to get the feeling that you are definitely elsewhere…”
-Aurelio Vazquez Duran
One million years ago, or so it feels like, I traveled in excess of 200 nights a year photographing hotels. You know the photos. The misleading pictures that make rooms look much bigger, cleaner and better equipped on line, than the room finally looks when you arrive. I have written here and there about my experiences in this industry, but I assure you, the best stories are the ones told over beers or a solid glass of bourbon, and they get better as the drink count climbs.
In five years I worked and traveled in more than 20 countries and photographed many Condé Nast gold list properties. I also photographed more than 150 budget properties strewn across thousands of American Interstate miles. In the last few months in this job, before exhaustion and frustration drove me to resignation, I started a series of self portraits in an attempt to illustrate what had become a very lonely and isolating career opportunity.
These photos were not a deliberate antithesis of the marketing photos I was sent to make, rather an attempt to share my experience with those who had a difficult time imagining what life on the road was like for myself and my colleagues. It was also an attempt to keep things interesting and entertaining as the redundancy of the daily check in and check out of nearly identically furnished rooms wore on after weeks on the road. In between the daily move from one hotel to another, of room shoot after room shoot, we struggled greatly to preserve some degree of normal life.
The photo below is one of my favourites from the series. Not only does it show the make shift workstation I spent hours at each day sorting through photos and trying desperately to maintain connections with my personal world through Skype or MSN Messenger, but it shows me in the process of repairing a flat tire for a bike that I had bought on this particular trip. I had done previous trips with a bike in my baggage and it became the best way to stave off the worst internal crises that surfaced on any extended trip. It became the best, and most healthy, way to preserve what felt normal.
“I’d invite you back to my place
It’s only mine because it holds my suitcase
It looks like home to me alright
But it’s a hundred miles from yesterday night”
–Man in a Suitcase, The Police