Tim Ross, comedian and architecture enthusiast, has trawled the National Archive of Australia for old holiday snaps and complied his findings in Motel, a new photography book of Australian accommodation in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
But this isn’t a history book or a compendium of beautiful architecture. Ross is interested in the forgotten, lost and at times faintly embarrassing moments of our past.
In the 80-odd photos he’s selected, Ross captures the spirit of mid-century middle Australia, full of American-inspired glam, sunshine, miniskirts and wide lapels. But between the sometimes daggy, often cringey designs there’s a record here of a lost Australia we push to the backs of our memories.
Ross’s introduction to the book recalls his own childhood holidays, when his family would stash Weet-Bix in the motel mini-fridge, and he and his brother would race to check if the room’s TV was in colour. His nostalgic commentary is informative wherever possible, and affectionately silly (“A man rests his hands on a freshly ironed pair of denim slacks”).
He’s also dug out some of the less-than-glamorous moments. An uninspiring wood-and-besser-block twin room at a Magnetic Island resort. The lawns and swimming pool littered with wrecked cars at the Darwin Travelodge in 1974 the day after Cyclone Tracy.
Ross’s fascination with old Australia extends to a national tour, a follow-up to his award-winning show Man About The House. Also called Motel, it co-stars Kit Warhurst and is a nostalgic mix of comedy, architecture, song and twin packs of biscuits held in motels and galleries around the country.
Motel is in bookstores now.