The Chelsea Hotel has been residence to culture icons from Janis Joplin to Andy Warhol. As controversial renovations continue, Colin Miller photos the hotels last-place remaining accommodations and their residents
In 2015, an structure 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 looked down the iron staircase I see anything of the hotel’s former glory. 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 has there a vague appreciation of the Chelsea then, primarily through the film Sid and Nancy and from living in New York on the leading edge of the punk scene.
An aura of popularity and invention emanated from the inn. Former inhabitants 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 volume there, and Leonard Cohen wrote two psalms about the liaison “hes had” there with Janis Joplin. Struck by what I had realise, I set out to photograph the homes of the last remaining residents before the historical forces 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, lit by dozens of candles, my wife and I were rapt as he told us about his life in the inn. 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 sounds of traffic unexpectedly returned and we discovered ourselves back in the real world. But Tony’s home had created a distinct and powerful transformation in my sensing of the inn and I began to form a deeper understanding of the worlds parties 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 duration, an accumulation of the marks so many have formed on it. At least until now.