The Chelsea Hotel

Linda Troeller

Linda Troeller is an award-winning photographer from New York City acclaimed for her many exhibitions about living at the legendary Chelsea Hotel. She exhibited at the F/Stop Photography Festival in Leipzig, Germany, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and the Melkweg Gallery and Coda Museum, Netherlands. She won Pictures of the Year Pictorial and published Healing Waters (Aperture) and Spa Journeys (powerHouse Books). The University of Texas, Austin, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Smithsonian Museum have collected her work. She exhibited Self-Portrayal at the Ververs Gallery, Amsterdam, and won an IPA Award in 2009 for “Self-Portraiture.” A documentary, “Inside the Frame: Linda Troeller,” opens in 2015 by Canadian filmmaker Jeff McKay.

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Published

4 July 2016

Photographer Linda Troeller was a resident at the iconic Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, New York for 20 years. We asked her to share some of her stories and observations whilst staying at the famous bohemian address, where a number of artists and musicians created some of their most famous pieces.

Self portrait of photographer, in Chelsea hotel

How did you first hear of The Chelsea and what drew you to it?

LINDA TROELLER: Of course I would say Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel 2, but also a colleague in the mid-seventies Photographer Joel Sternfeld showed it to me when he was meeting photography legend Lisette Model around then.

Which room did you stay in and which room do you wish you could have stayed in and why?

I lived in 3 rooms from 1994 to 2012. I started on the 8th floor then got the 3rd floor balcony room and last was 9th floor with round corned windows and an expansive view. If I had the chance I would have lived in the ‘pod’ shaped room on the roof with gardens and loft bed!

What was your favourite part of the hotel?

Lobby.

Who did you find the most interesting resident?

Ethan Hawke.

What do you think gave the hotel its character, the people or the building?

Both were required for success!  Thick walls for music groups to practice, and people replenishing hotel for nite or years with creative dreams!

Is the manager really like Iggy Pop, who portrayed him in the film Sid and Nancy?

No. He was charming, loyal and keen on propelling artists mingling.

Picture of Chelsea hotel's lobby

Photo courtesy: Linda Troeller

How many images a day were you shooting or were you just gradually building a portfolio of work there over a long period a day?

Gradual which was pushed in 2000 when Stanley Bard managing director wanted to write a book and use my photos but it didn’t evolve as hoped.

Tell us a secret about the hotel.

Ghost in elevator.

What’s your favourite true or false story about it?

When I was shown my room on 8 – Stanley said “here is a huge closet” and a giant snake jumped at us from a box!

What did the room keys come with? Tassels, cards, heavy brass fobs?

The key had green plastic fob!!

Did it have any unusual services other hotels couldn’t provide?

You could display your art on the staircase

In mid 90’s, maids made our bed for long term residents for a reasonable fee after work.

Did you ever make it onto the roof or into the basement?

Yes there were many parties of residents with roof access. At first I kept crated shows in basement which was full of theatre like items but when Serena’s bar was negotiated in cellar area we all had to get our stuff out and things were tossed so fast after deadline…treasures for sure!

Did you ever explore Staff Only areas?

Not really.. maybe a few times to get fresh sheets in a pinch.

 

Portrait of Ethan Hawke at Chelsea hotel

 Photo courtesy: Linda Troeller

What was the lift like?

So many interesting people to meet- but if you wanted quiet or privacy you kept eyes down.

Where would you rate it in terms of iconic New York institutions?

Unique and unrepeatable.

Who was your favourite employee?

Timur the bell hop.

When did you last pass through the exit door?

2012 when owners had knocked down all rooms on my floor but one other for renovations and did not observe correct pollution practices and mold and toxic smells entered my room ruining my clothes and affecting my eyes which swelled. I had a legal battle underway but left before eviction court. Owners gave me a goodbye exhibition in storefront level where my publisher’s salesman saw show and followed up with this Schiffer book! The Chelsea partners also agreed to display 5 of my Chelsea Hotel photographs they acquired when renovated hotel opens and made me in contract also lifetime friend of Chelsea Hotel. The hotel was to open now but work and finances got behind and partners are aiming for next year to reopen.

WORDS BY LINDA TROELLER

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