(Edited by Robbyn McGill)
Dutch duo Vera Van de Sandt and Jur Oster spent two years documenting Brazil’s infamous pay-by-the-hour motels, gathering images and stories for this provocative publication, for which I co-wrote and edited the following content:
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Brazilians are a passionate people. They’re not afraid to show their bodies or express their sensuality publicly, as evidenced by their exuberant celebrations of Carnival each February. Infidelity is commonly thought about, if not openly practiced. Paradoxically, having multiple partners, homosexuality, and other nonconventional relationships remain in conflict with the more dominant, conservative values that run deep beneath the country’s carnal reputation.
Large families often live together in small, cramped houses, where it’s difficult to find privacy. Young Brazilians, who tend to live at home until they marry, cannot bring their partners back home for sex. And regardless of their sexual tendencies, most Brazilians prefer to avoid a personal reputation for promiscuity, and therefore, the desire to express the full range of their sexuality, discreetly and in private.
Enter Brazilian Love Motels. They’re everywhere; in urban and rural areas, even in the jungle. These tantalizing (if somewhat cheesy) “romantic escapes” offer an exciting alternative to having sex outdoors (a common practice in some parts of Brazil). You’ll find them dotting highways and motorways and sprinkled amidst everyday shopping streets and business districts. They’re usually surrounded by high walls but are still easily recognized by their names, like “Red Love,” “Stop Time,” “Tropicál” and “Álibi,” flashing in colorful neon at the gate.
Unlike typical European hotels, these rooms can be rented on an hourly basis and often include erotic amenities, such as anonymous in-room food, drink (and toy!) service, jacuzzis, sex-chairs, and ceiling mirrors. Some couples experience the love motels’ extravagant appearance and eccentric extras as a way to break their daily routine. They’re fun, sexy, and charge only for the time used, so relatively cheap.
Driven by a shared fascination with Brazil’s “love culture” (and its cliches), Vera van de Sandt (art director) and Jur Oster (photographer) documented the authentic interiors of Brazilian love motels over a two-year period, just as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics threatened to transform them into soulless tourist facilities. They first arrived in Brazil during 2014 carnival, overwhelmed to find most of the love motels fully booked. Over the next few years, they visited and photographed dozens of these motels and talked excessively about them with anyone they met along the way. Brazilians of all ages, friends and random strangers, taxi-drivers, motels’ staff and even fellow passengers on a boat trip through the Amazon, contributed their views on love, sex, and romance within this cultural context.
Operating on a small scale to remain anonymous, they worked only with available light and a single backpack of equipment: a Rolleiflex 2.8 GX camera, a small (carbon) tripod, a light meter and several rolls of 6x6 (medium format) color negative. They chose a wide range film stock to capture the room’s original atmosphere, letting the authentic colors, details, and lighting speak for themselves. The resulting photographic series “Love Land Stop Time” captures a fascinating and provocative cultural phenomenon in paradox.