Jennifer McClure & Thomas Ségouin. Photo by © Jennifer McClure

Heartbreak Hotel


Photographer JENNIFER MCCLURE discusses a series of photos taken during a recent trip to Paris; offering us a compelling glimpse into the creative process and how one’s art can profoundly affect one’s life, and vice versa.


This series of photos comes from a larger project I have been working on about my long history of temporary relationships. I have never dated someone consistently for over a year. I finally realized that perhaps I, and not fate, was responsible.  I decided to examine the implosions and the meltdowns, how I set up relationships to fail. I use stand-ins for my exes and sometimes group them into a type (“Daddy”, “Manchild”, “Drinking in Common”). I set them in hotel rooms because I want backdrops that are as impersonal as these interactions turn out to be.

Before I came to Paris, I had the idea that my shoot would be about the narcissists I had dated. The men who were so in love with themselves that they barely noticed me.  I could disappear. But the night before I left New York, I decided that I couldn’t continue on with the man situation I was in. I was crazy about someone who made it very clear that he didn’t want a girlfriend. I kept pushing. He was a good friend and I understood his reasons, but I wanted more and I was heartbroken.

So I came to Paris with this heavy weight.  I didn’t want to shoot anything. I wandered around Montmartre in the rain and felt sorry for myself.  I went into a thrift shop to dry off one day and found the blue dress, which was perfect. I wanted to look like I thought I was going to a prom when, in reality, I was only invited out for a beer.

My room was lush and romantic, and I felt anything but. Thomas arrived, and our mutual friend translated the concepts and then left.  We tried the narcissist set-up but the photos seemed cold. I knew the best pictures would be about what had just happened in New York. The glass doors and the balcony were perfect for showing my overwhelming sensation of being shut out. I had Thomas sit on the bed and ignore me while I pounded on the doors and screamed to get in.

Jennifer McClure & Thomas Ségouin. Photo by © Jennifer McClure


The whole process made me feel crazy. I realized how ridiculous it was to try to force myself into someone else’s life. I was painfully aware of how selfish and demanding I had been. Thomas and I switched places. It wasn’t pleasant to be on the receiving end of that, either. I definitely experienced a slight tingle of power, but it was mostly uncomfortable and a little pathetic. I took more photos after Thomas left, in an attempt to capture what affect all of those unreasonable demands have on my mental state. I was on the floor for all of them, feeling really low and trying to find my dignity.

Jennifer McClure. Photo by © Jennifer McClure


The photo of the two of us that I ultimately chose is more about resignation than suffering, because that’s what I took from the experience. I learned that sometimes I get so caught up in the fantasy of how I want things to be that I can’t appreciate them for what they are.  I learned how to let go.

– Jennifer McClure 2011

To view more of Jennifer’s work, please visit:

Published: November 18th, 2011

Previous in this series:

Trading Creativity


  1. Isa wrote:

    Jen –
    that took some guts to become so openly vulnerable, real and authentic –
    it’s that authenticity which makes your photographs so appealing ….and thus resonating in/with many of us who have experienced same at some time in our lives –
    wishing you success in all your future endeavours –
    with much respect and love

  2. Sweet Freak wrote:

    I agree: bravo on the brutal honesty, to say nothing of the wild talent in both photography and writing (you can tell a story brilliantly in both mediums!).

    And I must ask: where is that hotel room? So beautiful and dramatic…

  3. seym6523 wrote:

    The hotel is indeed beautiful. It’s Villa Royale in Pigalle:

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