Motel Art

For many years I've been photographing the wall art on display in motels I stay at. I travel quite a bit. These days my trips are often domestic road trips in my own car, or from flights, picking up a rented car, driving from motel to motel, night after night.  If I need a room for a night I'll try to book a day or so in advance through Hotwire or a comparable app. 

I pay attention to what's behind the counter as I check in at a motel. This is often what forms the guest's first impression and would seem important, at least to me. Sometimes a chain will hire a local artist or photographer to provide art for the motel, more usually it's handled by a company that does that on a "more for less" basis, art in quantity, with reproduced prints and framed posters in lower-end places, whereas at higher end hotels the quality is better, often showing original or commissioned art.

Different scenarios are that I am just booking into a motel for a night on a close-to-home two day shoot, or far away and on the road heading towards my destination, or booked in for several days up to a week or more in one place. More recently I am using  Airbnb, etc. more for stays in one place for a long weekend or a week or so. I can't help but notice what is hanging in my room, along the hallways in motels and in public spaces. Usually at the end of the day I am just too beat to pay much attention to what's on the walls but will wake up early, head on down to the breakfast area and find myself checking out what they did art-wise. Sometimes it is just too good, or too bad, to ignore. 

Usually the most gruesome spaces are the long hallways and within that genre the airport hotels are most often the most egregious; inhuman corridors, poorly constructed, worn and stained carpet, leading to mass housing on a grand sale, with no sense of anything soothing or sympathetic to our common human condition.

Motels and subsequently motel art, are, for me, an almost necessary evil. Convenient, plentiful, affordable they provide a place to lay my weary head after a long day of driving, shooting, driving, shooting for hours on end. They also can be simply awful; unsanitary, poorly maintained, devoid of aesthetic and poorly run. I search for affordable three star motels, but have been dealt some really poor hands over the years. This picture below came from a hotel in Virginnia on my way to North Carolina to teach at Penland one spring in my bathroom after I'd taken a shower.

Motel Art: I wonder if you do this too, photograph where you stay on a photo road trip?

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted January 16, 2017