The Chelsea Hotel has been residence to culture icons from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol. As contentious redevelopments continue, Colin Miller photos the inns last remaining accommodations and their residents
In 2015, an building house approached me to take some photographs of the renovations they’d made to the historic Chelsea Hotel after the building was sold. The images I took were forgettable, but when I gazed down the iron staircase I see anything of the hotel’s former blessing. Articles of the tenants’ artwork decorated the stairwell and amid the construction mess were visible signalings of a vibrant parish of local residents who attended profoundly for their residence. I has there a vague appreciation of the Chelsea then, primarily through the movie Sid and Nancy and from living in New York on the edge of the punk scene.
An aura of fame and creativity started from the hotel. Former residents include Allan Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Stanley Kubrick, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith; Dylan Thomas and Nancy Spungen died there; Madonna lived and shot her Sex notebook there, and Leonard Cohen wrote two chants about the affair he had there with Janis Joplin. Struck by what I had appreciated, I set out to photograph the homes of the last remaining tenants before the historic parts were further sterilised. The Chelsea’s demise was imminent; I had a treasured few months before it would all disappear.
I met resident Tony Notarberardino for the first time in 2015 and entering his apartment was like crossing into another magnitude. In his living room, ignite by dozens of candles, my partner and I were rapt as he told us about their own lives in the hotel. His bedroom was covered in deep reds and ochres and decorated as a kind of burlesque netherworld. When we stepped from the inn on to 23 rd Street the seems of traffic unexpectedly returned and we noticed ourselves back in the real world. But Tony’s home had created a distinct and strong displacement in my feeling of the inn and I began to form a deeper understanding of the worlds people 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 experience, an accumulation of the marks so many have attained on it. At least until now.