The Chelsea Hotel has been residence to culture icons from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol. As controversial redevelopments continue, Colin Miller photos the hotels last remaining accommodations and their residents
In 2015, an structure conglomerate approached me to take some photographs of the renovations they’d made to the historic Chelsea Hotel after the building was sold. The photos I took were forgettable, but when I looked down the cast-iron staircase I see anything of the hotel’s former greatnes. Segments of the tenants’ artwork decorated the stairwell and amid the construction mess were visible signs of a vibrant parish of residents who attended deep for their home. I has there a ambiguous feel of the Chelsea then, mainly through the cinema Sid and Nancy and from living in New York on the leading edge of the punk scene.
An aura of reputation and originality started from the hotel. Former inhabitants include Allan Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Stanley Kubrick, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith; Dylan Thomas and Nancy Spungen died there; Madonna lived and shooting her Sex book there, and Leonard Cohen wrote two psalms about the occasion “hes had” there with Janis Joplin. Struck by what I had understood, I set out to photograph the homes of the last remaining occupants before the historical forces were further sterilised. The Chelsea’s demise was imminent; I had a precious few months before it would all disappear.
I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and registering his apartment was like crossing into another dimension. In his living room, well-lighted by dozens of candles, my partner and I were rapt as he told us about “peoples lives” in the hotel. His bedroom was painted in deep reds and ochres and embellished as a kind of burlesque netherworld. When we stepped from the inn on to 23 rd Street the resonates of traffic abruptly returned and we determined ourselves back in the real world. But Tony’s home had created a distinct and potent alter in my insight of the inn and I began to form a deeper understanding of the worlds beings carved out there: his apartment was not only an extension of his personality, but a collect of the lives of those who had lived there before him. The Chelsea is a collaboration across age, an accumulation of the marks so many have built on it. At least until now.