Anna Carey’s Stardust is a photographic suite featuring five retro-styled ‘Stardust’ motels from different parts of the world. The motels exist in both ‘… then’ and ‘… now’ versions, resulting in a suite of ten images. Anna’s fascination with mid-twentieth century architecture arose while growing up in Queensland’s Gold Coast, where she was exposed to such edifices for the first twenty-odd years of her life. Later, while travelling to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Carey got to see many of the original buildings whose style had influenced Gold Coast architects of the 1950s and ‘60s.
To create her fastidiously constructed ‘… then’ photographs, Anna sourced historical photographs of retro-styled ‘Stardust’ motels from the Internet for use as reference images. She used these low-quality photos to design and roughly fabricate miniature models of the motels using flimsy materials such as paper and foam core. Carey photographed the intricately detailed models within cinematically-styled ‘sets’, which featured oversized photographs of real landscapes as their backgrounds. Taking the lead from early Hollywood filmmakers, Anna shot these highly-stylised tableaux vivants under natural light in Los Angeles—the city where she now lives and works.
Once the ‘… then’ versions of the various ‘Stardust’ motels were created and photographed (showing the buildings in their theoretical ‘prime’), Anna used Google Maps to find images of how they currently looked. Using these images as a guide, Carey ‘renovated’ the models to produce realistic ‘… now’ versions of the motels. Creating updated locations into which they were placed, Anna re-shot the overhauled models to create present-day versions of the motels. The resulting photographs show how the buildings have metamorphosed since their glory days, highlighting features such as revamped signage, repainted walls and phased-out swimming pools.
As a child of the Internet-generation, Anna Carey helps us to understand how technologies such as Google Maps, Navman and Global Positioning Systems have become the tools of choice for contemporary orientation, fact-finding and planning. In so doing, these new forms of information management have largely made redundant the beautiful retro-styled signage which formerly adorned our highways and byways, advertising the location and services of roadside motels.
This project uses international examples of retro-styled ‘Stardust’ motels to exemplify the world-wide homogeneity of a style of architecture which is distant from yet connected to contemporary culture, both in time and space. It also demonstrates how, over time, digital technologies might change the appearance of urban landscapes all over the world.