The Chelsea Hotel has been residence to culture icons from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol. As controversial renovations continue, Colin Miller images the inns last remaining apartments and their residents
In 2015, an building 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 ogled down the iron staircase I see anything of the hotel’s former honour. Articles of the tenants’ artwork embellished the stairwell and amid the construction mess were visible clues of a vibrant community of local residents who attended deep for their residence. I had just been a vague appreciation of the Chelsea then, mainly through the movie Sid and Nancy and from living in New York on the edge of the punk scene.
An aura of honour and clevernes originated from the inn. Former residents include Allan Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Stanley Kubrick, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith; Dylan Thomas and Nancy Spungen died there; Madonna lived and fire her Sex book there, and Leonard Cohen wrote two carols about the thing “hes had” there with Janis Joplin. Struck by what I had accompanied, I set out to photograph the homes of the last remaining occupants before the historical gangs 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 enrolling his apartment was like crossing into another magnitude. In his living room, light by dozens of candles, my bride and I were rapt as he told us about their own lives in the hotel. His bedroom was decorated 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 rackets of traffic unexpectedly returned and we knew ourselves back in the real world. But Tony’s home had created a distinct and potent displacement in my knowledge 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 accumulation of the lives of those who had lived there before him. The Chelsea is a collaboration across period, an accumulation of the marks so many have saw on it. At least until now.