New York Hotel Story by Nathalie Daoust

It is strange indeed to see where fate can lead you. A 25 years ago Nathalie Daoust, a Canadian photographer, went to New York City to do a shoot of mens clothing on location in the Carlton Arms Hotel.

It is strange indeed to see where fate can lead you. A 25 years ago Nathalie Daoust, a Canadian photographer, went to New York City to do a shoot of mens clothing on location in the Carlton Arms Hotel.

The hotel is known internationally for its live-in projects, which have been operating for four decades, where an artist moves into a room for a few months and has the opportunity to redesign the room and create their own atmosphere. Every inch of every room, hallway, staircase and bathroom has a different theme, ranging from a child’s fantasy to an English pub, a submarine, an Italian garden, a Chinese theatre – whatever can be imagined has been created.

One thing led to another, and Daoust was invited to move into the Hotel and design a room of her own. Two new rooms later, Daoust has expanded her involvement to include two series of photographs and a book, Hotel Story, which will include two series: the first being a documentary using 3D techniques (which requires the viewer to wear 3D glasses to view the images), and the second an exploration of various photographic techniques designed to highlight the atmosphere of the rooms and the diverse individuals who inhabit them.

Daoust then became the resident nomad, moving from room to room, staying in each just long enough to get a feel for the room taking her photographs and moving to the next. She photographed both models and residents, using a number of different techniques to capture the very different styles of the rooms.

Some rooms were more hospitable than others- while Daoust cites the Love Room as her favorite, she does not recommend staying there for more than a few nights. The room is completely red, with the bed on a pedestal surrounded by drapes-good for a night of bliss but perhaps a little too intense for day to day life! Also on the list of rooms to think carefully about is the Halloween room, which has its walls covered with dead people- not the ideal setting for a good night’s sleep.

However Daoust enjoyed them all: she says that moving rooms so often meant there was always something fresh, and she was also able to give the Hotel’s owners some feedback on which rooms should be fixed up. While some of the rooms have been there for over a decade, other rooms only last a few weeks before a new artist is invited to redesign them.

About Nathalie Daoust

Nathalie Daoust’s photographs reflect a love for random places and a wild, inexhaustible sense of inquisitiveness. Exploring, experiencing and documenting rarely visited landscapes and carefully hidden hotel rooms, she spent the last decade producing voyeuristic insights into these otherwise veiled existences. 

The Canadian photographer, who studied the technical aspects of photography at the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal, spent two years in the late nineties living in the Carlton Arms Hotel in New York. The rooms, all themed and decorated with wild, colourful murals formed an excellent background for Daoust’s photographic projects which focused on the dark, obscure and, especially in those years, the ghostly. She has traveled extensively and took photos not only of New York hotel rooms but also of Tokyo’s red light district, Brazilian brothels and Swiss naturists populating the Alps.  

Daoust has created an oeuvre that is both diverse and intense. Seeking to translate her almost childlike curiosity, her perseverance and her highly individual interpretation of the world into fairytale like stories, she single-handedly creates new myths about modern day society, as well as real-life stories of the underdogs. [Text by  Georgia Haagsma] [Official Website]

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