Art photographer Linda Troeller has lived at the Chelsea Hotel for 12 years. The Chelsea and its quirky, creative residents have provided excellent subjects for Linda's Hotel Chelsea: Inside Out project, which is garnering attention across the country and in Europe. A film about Linda's career as a photographer, much of it shot here at the Chelsea, is scheduled for release in 2007.
Why did you decide to move into the Chelsea?
I have a collector, Marion Schneider, who always stayed at the Chelsea Hotel when she visited my loft on 18th Street, so I thought the Hotel might be a good place to consider for a change since I was traveling so often for my photography assignments. I liked the idea to have my things protected and my mail kept for me.
How did you score your apartment?
Stanley showed me a ‘writer’s room on the 8th floor, 832, with a huge closet and to both our surprise there was a caged snake inside! He blushed and said he didn’t know it was there...”But don’t worry.” he said, “our staff will have the room perfectly clean for you.”
I‘ve lived in two other rooms – 319, and presently on the 9th floor. From 832 I moved down to a balcony room, 319, where I enjoyed an art studio space. When the nightclub below, Serena’s got popular and noisy I wanted to move into the back of the hotel and just about that time a man who had occupied my room passed on after living there almost his whole life. I have a wide and expansive panorama window view of the Hudson and it was where I saw one of one of the Twin Towers collapse.
Do you think there is a creative energy in the Chelsea?
Yes. Perhaps seasons actually. Brooding, isolation and introspection in winter and in spring when the light flows more strongly down from the skylight, it adds radiance to our halls and drifts in the rooms. The attitude and ether is more buoyant, upbeat.
How has living in the Chelsea affected your creative development?
The hotel provides a safe haven and artistic acceptance that allows me to work as though I might be attending an art colony. Living here is convenient for editors to stop by and has led to publication
My book Healing Waters, on spas and hot springs around the world, Aperture, and exhibition was edited in Room 832; and, Erotic Lives of Women with the Swiss publisher, Walter Keller, was planned in 319. Marion Schneider, the writer/interviewer on that book and I created four shoots with women at the hotel. I also evolved my fashion portfolio here with C4, a photo and model agency, active in the late 90's in the hotel. A regular guest, Klaus Boehm, my collector from Germany, dreams up his creative
projects , such as suggesting me to photograph the design Apolda Award catalogues and his own spa, Toskana Therme. recently praised in the NYT Travel section.
What other creative people at the Chelsea or elsewhere have influenced your development?
I was an assistant for the photographer, Ralph Gibson, who lived at the Chelsea in the 60's and was a photography teacher of “Bookmaking” at the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite. While working with him he radically shortened my Leica camera strap, that I had dangling long at my side.
With the redesign I could quickly pull it out to my eye and it had proved useful for shooting my whole career.
Who is the most famous person you've ever ridden with in the Chelsea elevator?
What's the worst/best thing that has ever happened to you at the Chelsea?
The worst experience was when they were renovating the hotel’s façade. I had been away for a few weeks and returned after dark. I didn't know why there was tape on the windows of my room so I opened the window for air in the middle of the night. I awoke with rusty dust on my face about 1/4 inch
thick. It took some hours to hear back from the EPA whether I was exposed to too much dust. I learned that there was nothing I could do to help my lungs, except breathe fresh air. So, I went to the East River and rode my bike and haven't had a problem.
The best thing was the visit of my now husband, Lothar, who I met as my student in my photography class at the Salzburg Art Academy in Austria, 2000. I always told students if you ever come to NYC, look me up. He did. We went to photo openings and he offered to assist me when I was in Europe. Eventually it led to our engagement party at the Chelsea Hotel.
How did you get interested in photography?
My parents gave me the gift of a bus tour to the art museums of Europe when I graduated from high school. It was also my birthday season so they gave me a Minolta SLR with lenses. I took b/w photographs on my trip which started my interest. During college I was a student actress at Ghost Ranch Conference Center in New Mexico where Georgia O’Keeffe had a home. Every year she invited the students for a luncheon and on the wall I saw the Steigliz’s photographs and was enthralled. Later that summer the director of the play gave me his Rollei 2 1/4 camera to take photographs of the
plays and I fell in love with the drama in the viewfinder. I went back to college and changed my major to the School of Journalism so I could take photography courses and got my MFA in Photography from Syracuse University.
Tell us about your Chelsea Hotel book and other projects that you are currently working on?
I was introduced by the bellhop, Timur to Alexander McQueen, the fashion designer from London. He came to my room and saw my Healing Waters prints and immediately invited me to be among press to shoot his fashion show that night. I returned to the hotel with my camera on my shoulder and a couple in the lobby started up a conversation discussing if I would photograph them. From then on it seemed natural to photograph my life in the hotel. I made portraits of guests and residents in my studio and in their apartments.
In 2000 Stanley Bard had seen my photo books and approached me to take interiors of some of the apartments toward a book that would feature my art photographs and his memoir. We created a proposal and approached publishers with an agent but that book idea didn’t connect with the
I have been evolving my hotel images since 1994 and have two upcoming presentations this fall on the project: Hotel Chelsea:InsideOut. They are for the Society for Education Conference, Oct 29, at Metropolitan College, Omaha, Nebraska, "Scanning the Horizon: social, natural, and political landscapes”, and on Nov 11, at Orange County College, Ca. in "Conflict (cultural, interpersonal, political, psychological, spiritual), http://www.spewest.org. Three of these Hotel Chelsea photographs are on view in Arles, France and for which I won the juror's prize selection.
Tell us about the film to come out in 2007?
Winnipeg Genie nominated filmmaker, Jeff McKay, received a Manitoba Arts Council grant to make, Linda Troeller, A Photographer¹s Portrait. The documentary is a one-hour profile on my photo career. Jeff and his wife, Ruthie, came and stayed in the hotel last summer in the room next to mine
and filmed me creating shoots and portraits with residents Victor Borckis, a writer; Joseph O;Neill, writer and Sally Singer, Fashion Director at Vogue; David Linter, screenwriter; and Robert Lambert, painter, among others.
What other photo projects do you have?
I will have a revival exhibition and lecture at Ryerson University, Toronto of my TB-AIDS DIARY photo collages, which were first shown in early the 1990's in New York, Havana, Helsinki, Paris among other
locations. This show was created in 1987 to address issues of stigma by comparing the response to TB patients in the 1930’s to AIDS sufferer’s today. I was using TB as a metaphor for the stigma surrounding contagious disease and treating it primarily as a historical artifact. Over the last
few years we have witnessed not only the rapid increase of AIDS worldwide, but also the activation of TB in the homeless, drug users, and now the vast increase in AIDS patients. The project has been shown around the world, translated into fourteen languages and I won Women of Acheivement, Douglass College/NJSFWC.