Randall Paetzold's The One Hour Motel photo series celebrates vintage Colfax
You may have seen Randall Paetzold's work and just not know it. "I shoot a lot of food photography, so this is really off-kilter for me -- some of my recent clients have been Root Down, Yours Truly, Cupcake, City, O' City and WaterCourse Foods," says the photographer. But when Paetzold's The One Hour Motel show opens tonight at Bardo's, a dim light will shine on his personal fascination with the beauty, mystery and scandalous behavior behind the closed doors of motels along Denver's most infamous strip: Colfax Avenue.
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"I also do a lot of portraits and family photography -- those pay the bills," Paetzold says. "But on the side, I love to shoot everything. I've only been shooting for three years, but I've been a graphic designer for thirteen and I've been using photography in my work that whole time."
Like many great photographers, Paetzold never really considered himself to be a photographer in the first place; it was just part of the work process. And after a decade looking through the lens as part of his graphic design business, three years ago he really began focusing on photography. Then something happened that accelerated his desire to push his creative work out into the world.
"Nine months ago I almost died, which is a really fun story," the photographer says, with a laugh. During a Thanksgiving meal with friends, Paetzold was overtaken by a stomachache. Excusing himself from the table, he found himself alone in the bathroom, vomiting massive amounts of blood. Then Paetzold cleaned himself up, went back to dinner and stayed quiet about the incident.
"I thought, I'm a guy. I can fix this. I'm just not going to tell anybody," says Paetzold. Later that evening, though, it happened again, and he ended up in the hospital. "Years of being a bartender, years of being in the restaurant industry, smoking and drinking and living the way I wanted to" were the cause of heartburn that had eventually burned through his esophagus, which was torn open by the vomiting.