Robin de Puy

MOTEL ... an ode to motel and hotel life

“I grew up in a family hotel. The hotel has always been a safe place for me. In fact, it was the first place where I was in charge. A place that meant “in transit” for many, but “home” to me.

I remember the man who would only drink Jagermeister from a round bottle, the square one was no good. I remember the man who - after drinking a few too many Duvels - got trapped in the shower cabin and panicked asking for help. I remember another man who had tried to turn the shower cabin into a sitting bathtub. He had stuffed the drain with washcloths, which had flooded the shower cabin, resulting in a leak in the restaurant.

I remember wonderful stories from fascinating guests, but I also remember exhausting ones from guests who were thrilled to have finally found someone they could catapult their tales at. I always kept smiling. Whenever I smile, everyone thinks I’m happy.

I remember freshly pressed sheets and the smell of beeswax on the marble floor. I remember the warm, damp bathrooms of newly departed guests.
The hotel was also the place where I had watched someone die in the hands of my mother, for wanting to stop the endless noise in his head with a nail gun. It was where Polish workers used to scale their self-caught fish. And where my bullied underage classmate had booked a room with someone who was not was her father, and whose bloody blankets I had to change afterward.

Hotel rooms and motel rooms are still places I cherish. Wherever I am in the world, no matter how beautiful, wide, and breathtaking the surroundings might be: the safest and most pleasant place will always be a motel room for me.
For a brief moment, you are in a strange place with unfamiliar smells, in a bubble that is yours alone. Nobody knows you. Could that be why there are so many stories hidden within the four walls of a room? Do all boundaries disappear, does shame dissipate, do we dare to be ourselves here even when there is a chance that someone might be watching?

MOTEL is an ode to motel and hotel life.

Over the past few weeks, I have spoken to dozens of motel owners, cleaners, and receptionists.

 A motel owner from Raton, New Mexico was not very keen on sharing his stories with me. “What’s in it for me?” But he casually pinpointed the significance of motels:

“You know, you have to realize that we are probably the sole representative for a visitor of our community, because they stay with us and probably contact really no one else, except the gas station man, or food. In fact, we have the responsibility to make sure we can help people, be their friend. Whatever their needs are. We are connected.”

And that is exactly what it was like for me, and what still rings true. A motel - or a hotel - is a place where someone will always be there to provide a sympathetic ear when you need one, regardless of your ideas, views, or opinions. A motel is an inexhaustible source of stories, a place where you can be curious, where you can withdraw or instead reveal. A place where your life begins or perhaps, ends.”

Watch and experience the online performances in March 2021 24/7 on demand in the NITE Hotel.

Too close in a house called Ceres.

For those who wondered what it is like to be a creative soul during this time.

Director: Robin de Puy
DOP: Maarten van Rossem
Editor: Bjorn Mentink
Sounddesign: Gijs Stollman
Grading: Maarten van Rossem
w/ VPRO Mondo


Close Up

Fotografe Robin de Puy heeft succes. Er komt de laatste jaren geen einde aan de reeks prestigieuze opdrachten. Maar er knaagt iets: fotografeert ze nog wel de mensen van wie zij vindt dat ze gezien moeten worden? Met alleen een camera als bagage stapt Robin in Amerika op de motor voor een road trip. Onder andere de Volkskrant, Linda, en Vrij Nederland maken veelvuldig gebruik van fotografe Robin de Puy (29). Na het winnen van de Photo Academy Award en de Nationale Portretprijs ging het hard met de carrière van Robin de Puy. Maar de laatste tijd brengt het werk haar minder bevrediging en vraagt ze zich af of ze wel genoeg uit haar talent haalt.

De Puy staat echter voor een dilemma: reizen in haar eentje, ver van huis, vindt ze het engste wat er is. Toch zet ze de stap, ze reist naar Amerika en huurt een motor voor een road trip. Maar dan vliegt de angst haar opnieuw naar de keel. Het liefst zou ze zich opsluiten in haar motelkamer. Hoe gaat ze deze reis voortzetten?

We zien hoe Robin de uitdaging aangaat en kriskras door Amerika rijdt, waarbij ze haar route puur op intuïtie bepaalt. We zien hoe ze de mensen uitkiest die ze wil fotograferen, met haar unieke, soms meedogenloze, maar altijd open en eerlijke blik. De film laat van dichtbij zien hoe Robin worstelt met haar onzekerheden, maar ook hoe ze zichzelf via haar foto’s beter leert kennen.

Robinde Puy