When it was built in the early 1880s the Chelsea Association Building was the tallest and largest building in New York City. Reinvented as a residential hotel in 1905, it soon became the unofficial home to the American arts and a profane Mecca for artists from all over the world. The Portuguese photographer Rita Barros has lived in the Chelsea for over three decades, occupying Apartment #1008 where in the 1960s Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey. The life of the place, her exotic neighbours, and her own persona are the subject of her work. An architectural and cultural landmark building since 1966, the Chelsea Hotel was sold in 2011 and is currently being gutted by developers. Instead of watching helplessly its destruction, Barros points the camera to what is happening around her and documents the Chelsea’s downfall. Bohemia can be read as a parable of life and death – a nostalgic and ironic vision of a space of freedom and uninhibited creativity that once flourished in the middle of the modern city.
RITA BARROS, a freelance photographer, has lived in New York since 1980. Her book Fifteen Years: Chelsea Hotel was published in 1999. A recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant in 2002, she teaches photography at New York University.
JORGE CALADO, professor (emeritus) of Physical Chemistry at Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, is cultural critic for the Expresso (Lisbon) and has curated over twenty-five photography exhibitions in Portugal, France, Belgium, U.K. and the U.S.A.
PETER CONRAD taught English Literature at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1973 to 2011 and is the author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects. His work appears in The Observer and he broadcasts frequently on the BBC.