Mia Hanson: The Lobby Is A Portal
Interview with Mia Hanson from
Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog

Fine Art Photographer Mia Hanson has lived in the Chelsea Hotel with her husband, Hawk Alfredson since October 2001. We're happy to report that she too shares our belief that the lobby is a portal into another dimension.

Have you thought of incorporating the Hotel into your moody imagery in any way?
Truthfully, I'm nearly haunted by the fact that I haven't done this in any meaningful way yet. I just need to focus on a way to express the soul of the Hotel that is unique enough to pursue. I have participated in many interesting projects concerning the artists who currently live in the Hotel and I think my project would need to go in a different direction. The Hotel is a unique organic installation in many ways shaped by it's management. Ideas will come assuredly and I know that I cannot force this. So, I wait. In the meantime I'll share with you an image of Terezka that I took recently on the 10th floor of the Hotel. The huge skylight works as a lightbox - I just love the natural even light. Skin appears soft and sculptural.

Besides a nice quality of light, what do you feel makes a great image?
I look for pictures that capture a moment in time with authenticity. I think that on some level when we look to the artistry of the camera we ask to be shown the beauty that resides in the world and within it's people. Ideology of beauty is varied, but I believe that this is what we all search for. Whatever the beholder determines to be beautiful provides a great source of strength and hope. The presence of an austere landscape can be inspiring since it reminds us of the beautiful silences that we have within ourselves. As the trumpeter Jon Hassell has thoughtfully said, "It's not only the notes that are played, it's the silences between the notes as well."

Maybe you are interested in capturing the silences between the shutter release?
This thought reminds me of my relationship with those I have repeatedly photographed. They know all too well of my reputation for waiting. Waiting for what? The Moment! the moment when the subject realizes after sitting a while (or lying naked in the snow) that they can trust that I am on their side (although a little bit warmer perhaps) and their eyes widen and take in that moment of trust with me. When I take someone's portrait I am Being with them in their moment.

There is something going on in your photos. How would you describe it?
For me, this is the most difficult question. Whether photographing a person or a place I'm always searching for the soul of my subject. As a photographer, I try to tap into some other frequency of mood and emotion that is there, yet hidden. Unlike the painter who creates from imagination, I'm fascinated with the thought of lifting the veil from our given reality. Mainly, since I know there's something else around us- I can feel it , but I can't see it and that's frustrating. I'm always wishing that a ghost will make an appearance for my camera...

Ghostly images... Have you seen works produced with a Kirlian camera by any chance?
The contact print studies of organic objects are exciting regarding their scientific importance, yet the "aura portraits" are less compelling. You would think photographing with magnetic energy should be reason enough for anyone to get their own Kirlian and have a go at it. I know I've been saving my pennies for one. I look forward to exploring this energy creatively.

If you could design your own camera, what would it be like?
I don't have a name for this hypothetical camera, but it would have simultaneous sensitivity for capturing both white light and magnetic frequency. Just imagine how amazing our world would be if we could see in delineations of full color the Other Reality beyond our eyes? With my camera we would then see how the trees might feel their own forest.

Is there any particular photographic genre you would like to see represented and shown more?
I greatly admire the staged "Magical Realist" imagery of various Czech photographers. Their well of emotional depth runs deep and they express a passion for life and an empathy for death. The American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin is a Master of morbid staged imagery. His painterly photographs of cadavers carefully placed with other found objects are surprisingly inspiring and beautiful. Witkin is some sort of alchemical wizard if there really can be one of those among us today. It seems to me as if he likes to play the role of a benevolent God asking the maimed players in his theatre to seek out the light. I think that Witkin profoundly expresses the strong human desire to overcome dark forces; Weakness of the human spirit being one of the most destructive of all these forces.

Who is the most famous person you have ever ridden with in the Hotel elevator?
Sean Lennon. He seemed a bit nervous. Just stared downward for four flights to the lobby. Maybe he had kaliedescopic mirrors on his shoes. I've spotted Daniel Lanois and Julie Delpy passing through the lobby. Not at the same time, however. Both seemed to be quite charming and convivial.

Any evidence you can share that would bring us closer to the theory that the Hotel Chelsea is actually a portal of entry into another dimension?
No evidence yet, but keoliechu phum xizt !!!

April 27, 2006