The Chelsea Hotel has been residence to culture icons from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol. As controversial redevelopments continue, Colin Miller photographs 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 photos I took were forgettable, but when I seemed 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 signals of a vibrant community of residents who cared deeply for their residence. I had only a ambiguous gumption of the Chelsea then, mainly through the film Sid and Nancy and from living in New York on the edge of the punk scene.
An aura of fame and ability originated from the inn. Former tenants 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 journal there, and Leonard Cohen wrote two hymns about the circumstance “hes had” there with Janis Joplin. Struck by what I had identified, I set out to photograph the homes of the last remaining inhabitants before the historical components 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 entering his apartment was like crossing into another feature. 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 inn. His bedroom was decorated 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 musics of traffic unexpectedly returned and we knew ourselves back in the real world. But Tony’s home had created a distinct and potent change in my sensing of the hotel 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 collecting 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 manufactured on it. At least until now.