The Chelsea Hotel has been home to cultural icons from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol. As controversial redevelopments continue, Colin Miller photographs the inns last-place remaining suites 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 photographs I took were forgettable, but when I looked down the cast-iron staircase I see anything of the hotel’s former immortality. Pieces of the tenants’ artwork embellished the stairwell and amid the construction mess were visible mansions of a vibrant community of residents who attended profoundly for their dwelling. 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 reputation and clevernes originated 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 kill her Sex book there, and Leonard Cohen wrote two lyrics about the circumstance “hes having” there with Janis Joplin. Struck by what I had recognized, I set out to photograph the homes of the last remaining inhabitants before the historical sections 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 enrolling his apartment was like crossing into another aspect. In his living room, light by dozens of candles, my bride and I were rapt as he told us about “peoples 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 hotel on to 23 rd Street the sounds of traffic suddenly returned and we felt ourselves back in the real world. But Tony’s home had created a distinct and powerful change in my impression 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 collection of the lives of those who had lived there before him. The Chelsea is a collaboration across era, an accumulation of the marks so many have formed on it. At least until now.