Capturing the Hotel Room Through Sophie Calles Camera

French artist and photographer Sophie Calle documents unmade hotel rooms in her book "The Hotel"
A page from Sophie Calle's The Hotel. Photo credits Siglio (December 7, 2021)
A page from Sophie Calle's The Hotel. Photo credits Siglio (December 7, 2021)

In 1981, Sophie Calle was hired as a temporary chambermaid in a Venetian hotel. In the course of her cleaning duties, she documented her experiences with the remnants of the traveller long gone. Her book, The Hotel, is about unmade beds, forgotten postcards, garments left behind, and scribbled notes in the hotel room wastebasket.

As an artist and photographer, Sophie presents many black-and-white photographs and a &ldquodiary&rdquo that records the 12 rooms she had been cleaning daily for three weeks.

Capturing the Transient Journey of the Traveller

&ldquoRather than erase the residue of human presence, as a &ldquoreal&rdquo maid is expected to, Calle does the opposite, preserving every stain and scrap as a sign or symbol,&rdquo writes Lili Owen for The New Yorker. Owen further relates this form of &ldquoart&rdquo with &ldquoproximate ethnography&rdquo that began to rise in the 90s with mass tourism.

As an artist, Calle captures the traveller&rsquos experience and their relationship with their travel to foreign places. For instance, she&rsquod find objects like &ldquoframed photos, slippers, a hot-water bottle&rdquo that people carry to feel at home outside home. Unsurprisingly, such objects were the common belonging of many travellers that Calle came across, adding to unique documentation of the everyday traveller experience.

Life of Objects Left Behind

If you&rsquove ever wondered about your favourite pair of socks that you left behind in a hotel, Sophie Calle&rsquos The Hotel is the book for you. Offering unique documentation, Calle gives us a peek into the world of lost objects that may otherwise live in the traveller&rsquos memory alone.

Her documentation, although controversial, is highly imaginative. In what she calls &ldquoarchaeology of the present,&rdquo Calle attempts an interpretive dialogue with the barest of fragments ticket stubs, torn stockings, wastebasket notes, orange peels etc.

Sophie Calle is known for many artistic enterprises. Her book &ldquoTake care of yourself&rdquo is the most famous among these. It was France&rsquos official entry for the 2007 Venice Biennale art exhibition.

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