PDN Photo of the Day

Hues of Empty Hotel Rooms

Artist Brad Carlile‘s series, “Tempus Incognitus,” invites viewers to imagine and invent stories about what may have happened in empty hotel rooms. In order to create his colorful images, Carlile photographed each room multiple times each day (each image took two days), varying the exposure length and paying careful attention to commonly found, but mostly ignored, light sources—night lights, TVs, lights outside of the rooms and hallway lights, for example. Carlile shot every image on a single piece of slide film, and, if he didn’t “get it right, I cut it up. Almost no margin for error.” Carlile did not use any digital manipulation when digitizing the images.

Carlile chose not to include people in the images in an effort to allow the viewer to write their own story about each image. “What I want to accomplish is to get people to pause from the constant stream of images that we all see and be still with a piece to explore and perceive the rooms like they never have before, to see the human drama in each place, and I want to activate people’s imaginations and bring their stories into the work.” The work also speaks to the “globalization” and “homogenization of modern life because these hotel rooms could be anywhere.” There are few details that identify the locations, which include Thailand, Hong Kong, Spain, Japan, and many locations within the U.S. “One woman at my Houston show swore that she stayed in the exact same room. She went on to tell me the story of her stay in that room and the weekend of events in that town. ‘New Orleans…I’m right?’ I nodded vaguely and smiled. I didn’t tell her that the light socket meant that it must be in Spain.”

Carlile splits his time between Portland and New York City. His work has been exhibited in Houston, Portland, Guatemala, Germany and Austria, and has received many accolades, including the 2014 PDN Photo Annual. Visit Carlile’s website for more on “Tempus Incognitus” and the influence of conceptual art on his work.


Posted in:

Conceptual/Still Life


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  1. What a breath of fresh air to see images that are not digitally manipulated. For me it means it is worth the time to look at these for a while to try and figure out what creates all the interesting patterns of light.

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