‘The Hotel’ is comprised of photographs taken by the artist of the hotel where he grew up, in the city of Gangtok in Northeast India. Dakpa left Gangtok in 2004, and began the series during visits home. As the only member of his family not involved in running the hotel, Dakpa’s photos allow him to negotiate his migration and detachment from it, while intensely exploring his family relationships. In Dakpa’s words, one’s sense of self is inseparable from the places we create, both physically and in our minds: “The nature of our official identity and place on paper is adopted and the one which is in our memory is fragmented, revealed only in places we once remember.”
The hotel is both real and metaphorical. Viewing life at the hotel through the lens of the camera, the artist assumes the dual role of one from the interior, and of outsider. His images explore the complexities of our relationship with family and home, and what it means to return to a place fundamental to the formation of identity.
‘Home’ is a deeply psychological concept, defined and textured by memory. Dakpa’s photos reveal the physical spaces of the hotel, its guest rooms, dining room, the family’s cat on a flight of stairs; as well as signs of daily working life there: sheets hanging out to dry, clipping plants in the garden, his parents engaged in various tasks. In Dakpa’s case, home is also a transient site for the hotel’s guests, a place filled with the traces of the strangers who have slept in the beds and walked the corridors. Images in the series include a lone pillow on the floor, stained by the many heads that have rested upon it, a cat making its rounds of the building and a man shaking the dust from a mat.
Both autobiographical and metaphorical, Dakpa’s studies are a tender tribute to family life that also present the hotel – a place of many rooms, in constant need of upkeep, at once familiar and estranged – as a portrait of the psyche.