Tokyo Hotel Story

by Nathalie Daoust



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Note: This essay contains EXPLICIT CONTENT!

Since my very first experiments in photography I have been fascinated by human behavior and its various realities, by the ever-present human desire of living in a dream world. The aesthetic of my new project continues this visual exploration at the border between dream and reality, yet this time embraces personal escapism and the act of loosing oneself.

My objective as an artist is to push the boundaries of photography through experimental methods, working with new mediums and discovering new techniques in the darkroom.

Editor’s Note – Anil Cherukupalli

Nathalie’s essay explores a world that lies at the intersection of desire and domination. She was given exclusive access to a unique hotel in Tokyo where fantasies and desire are given free reign in the company of dominatrixes in small self contained universes. Each portrait, through the use of the darkroom technique of selective blurring, offers a sensitive and intimate glimpse of a moment in time in the lives of these women. Some are playful while others are pensive. Some are contorted while others are cheerful. And some others are distant while others are demanding. Collectively, the photographs in this essay are like a window into an alternate world of saturated fantasy and barely suppressed desire.

The photo essay also explores the female form and the various desires it can provoke. In spite of the sometimes shocking nature of the various women featured in nearly dream like settings seemingly acting out their client’s fantasies, the clever juxtaposition of clarity and fuzziness in the photographs through a darkroom technique contrasts the unreal and real aspects of the lives of these women. This also brings a sense of intimacy to the evocative portraits, humanizing the women beyond their obvious fantasy role playing and fantastic settings.

In its present arrangement, the photo essay also has a strange narrative flow even though the photos by themselves are non-linear. It is as if the photos have arranged themselves to tell a story where each photo seems to connect to the next by a gesture or a pose or a position. Is the woman in red who is smoking a cigarette peeking out of her partially opened door into the room in the next photo where a woman lies on the floor, eyes closed in peace with the tendrils of her red hair trailing out like some unknown symbol? Are Yuri, Ageha, Asuka and Kogure competing with each other in some weird sexual gymnastics? Or the one towards the end which offers a rare glimpse at the other side of this profession-the men or ‘slaves’, in this case a masked man, who seems to be staring at Yurika, the woman in the last photo, with a mixture of fear and reverence, as if she personifies the ideal Japanese woman, a curious mixture of tradition and domination. My favorite photo in the whole series is the one of Shelly where she is captured in a pensive mood. Behind her alluring physical charms, there is something mysterious about her as a whole. What is she thinking at that moment? If she reflecting on her unusual occupation? Is she remembering something sad? Or is she just thinking something very mundane? I don’t know. We don’t know. It is this capacity to get simultaneously attracted, mystified, titillated and shocked that is the power of this captivating series that looks into one manifestation of our infinite hunger for escape from mundane existence.

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, Daoust spent the last decade producing voyeuristic insights into these otherwise veiled existences. A Canadian Daoust, 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. Daoust 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.


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