Filme und Dokumentationen
From the summer of ’69 until the spring of ’72 I was a more or less permanent resident at the Chelsea Hotel - hopping from room to room depending on my budget. Initially, after arriving in NY I worked as a photographic assistant to Bill King who, at the time, did mainly photoshoots for Harpers Bazaar.
As a matter of good fortune his Studio was located close to the Warhol Factory and Warhol shot a number of scenes for his movies “Flesh” and “Trash” at the studio. In this way I not only got to know the Warhol crowd, but was also allowed a front row seat and was able to observe them closely. For the movies they effectively had to play themselves and I was absolutely stunned and fascinated by the transvestites: the certainty, the ambiguity and ever present sexuality.
By mid-1970 I had quit my job with Bill King and began to document the city as it happened around me. As a freelance photographer I covered numerous topics including street art, the Run Away Kids of East Village and the Chelsea Hotel. Thankfully, the then brand new Zeit Magazin, Hamburg, published many of these early projects.
Together with friends we went on to found the Yonah Yeend Production Company and set out to document life off-off Broadway. This short clip about the Chelsea Hotel was actually made as a pilot, which we pitched to the NDR in Hamburg to attract funding for a larger documentary we had planned. Amazingly they agreed, but because we didn’t budget very well, the film was never made - a regrettable folly of my youth.
Even though the film was never made, it does exist in my head. Living at the Chelsea Hotel I studied its inhabitants very closely. Never before and never thereafter have I encountered a crowd more diverse, more vein and more fantastical. The bizarre paradox I observed was that in all their efforts to be unique, in all their efforts to become noticed, in all their efforts to become famous - all those people were surprisingly similar - made similar by their efforts to be different.
Broadly speaking the inhabitants of the Chelsea Hotel could be split into three groups. First, there were the artists. They occupied the upper floors and existed within a strict hierarchy according to the degree of success and external recognition. Second came the musicians, film makers and writers that drifted in and out of NY and crashed at the Chelsea Hotel. The final group, the most mysterious, were the druggies and the dealers. To the best of my knowledge they occupied the third floor, but they existed in complete isolation and were never spoken of.
Before finishing there are two people I would like to mention in connection with this clip: Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. The two lived in a dilapidated building just next door to the Hotel and are so closely intertwined with all my memories of the Chelsea Hotel that I can’t not mention them. Patti fascinated me from the very start. She really was completely different to any other human I had ever met before. She was pure energy. Everything was an experiment and everything was to be understood. Robert, on the other hand, was a cool cynic, yet the two stood united in their fundamental aim to get to the top and I am incredibly pleased to know that they really made it!
One final remark - most of the material that I shot during those days in NY has either been lost or destroyed. Nevertheless, these were important times for me and if I could only save one roll of film to remember them by, it would have to be this short clip. Incredible times.
ARTE Journal, Beitrag vom 12. April 2016
Albert Scopin, Video-Portrait, 2015
Bazon Brock, Einführung zur Ausstellung SCOPIN ASPHALT, Berlin 2016