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Playing in the Deep End with Amanda de Cadenet

The photographer and interviewer gathered friends like Busy Philipps, Suleika Jaouad, and Phoebe Tonkin for portraits and conversations during a residency at the Chelsea Hotel.

Playing in the Deep End with Amanda de Cadenet
Amanda de Cadenet
As Told To
Hilary George-Parkin

Amanda de Cadenet recently kicked off the Chelsea Hotel's creative residency program, staying at the legendary property for a two-week stint during which she recorded interviews for her podcast, The Conversation, created a portrait series of featured guests and friends, and took time to write. Below, she invites us into her world of creativity and collaboration with the easy intimacy she's made her trademark, and shares a playlist inspired by her stay.

I've been staying at the Chelsea Hotel since it went into the hands of Shawn McPherson. It wasn't even really done when I started staying there—there were still a lot of residents. It has such an amazing creative history with iconic people who have lived there over the years. I find it really interesting that it has a whole new life today with the creatives who stay there. I was really, really thrilled when I suggested that the Chelsea start doing creative residencies and that I would do the first one, and they were up for it. I spent two weeks living at the Chelsea focused on various creative projects that I was working on. The first one was a special series of my podcast, The Conversation. I would interview people in person at the Chelsea in my room or I would do remote interviews.

It was great to actually sit down with people in person: Billie Piper was in New York because she was doing Scoop on Netflix. There was Phoebe Tonkin, who I've known for so many years and have been dying to interview her. She lives down the street from the Chelsea, so she popped by, and we did an interview. And then Sloane Crosley—she’s the quintessential New York author, and her book called Grief Is for People had just come out, so she came by.

I think intimacy is a throughline in everything that I do—when people look at my portraits, they’re like, ‘Oh, it's so intimate.’ Or my interviews. They're like, ‘Wow, did you know that person?’ And I'm like, ‘No, I never met them before.’ But you can't really tell the difference between someone I know very well and someone I just met. I think I'm always looking for that because that is the true essence of the person. I'm really terrible at surface, at small talk. I'm just terrible at it. Let's just get into it, you know? So that space was like, I slept in there. I ate my meals at the hotel. I didn't really venture out—people came to me. It was really like an incubator for a two-week period, and I'm really happy with the creative products that came out of that. I started working on a series about death that I'm writing. I start filming it soon.

The goal is for people to show up and feel comfortable enough to be themselves. I look at interviewing and photographing people as a collaboration. I'm not here, to push my agenda on you. I have some creative ideas, but what are you thinking? It's a collaborative relationship.

Suleika Jaouad

I got to do a portrait of Suleika Jaouad, who I'm completely in love with. She's an incredible writer. She's also doing a creative residency and is prepping for her very first art show. She came by after she had spent the day interviewing Salman Rushdie. We got room service, did a portrait, and talked about Lentil Batiste, her new rescue dog who I'm obsessed with.

I could probably tell you about the emotional lives of everyone that I photographed. If they didn't say it in our interview, it's not mine to tell, but that is the space in which I play. Like, Suleika—there's a really wonderful article about her in the Atlantic that just came out and the writer talks about falling in love with her. And that's not unusual. I'm completely enamored with her. She's got really high EQ. That's what's fun for me, when you can really play in that space. Because that isn't what people are showing most of the time.

Billie Piper

I photographed Billie for British Vogue 20 years ago. It was great to revisit and interview her so many years later. We've had many parallels. Being a famous young woman in the UK is a special kind of hell, and we really connected over that. And getting married young to older men, and what that was like.

Phoebe Tonkin

Phoebe's signature

I've known Phoebe since she was a teenager. And whether I'm photographing people or interviewing them. It's really such an honor to revisit people over different stages of their lives.

Behind the scenes with Leith Clark and her daughter Astrid

Lights: Hobolite

Stephanie Laffin

Leith and Astrid

My friend Leith Clark is a stylist extraordinaire and the editor-in-chief of Violet. I shot their current cover out now of Brit Marling. Leith was staying at the Chelsea with her daughter, Astrid, and she had a 30-minute window that fit with my 30-minute window. So she came down and we did a picture that I love of her and Astrid by the window that is just so intimate and really shows Leith and Astrid's mother-daughter connection. I feel like it is so palpable in that photo.

Busy Philipps

My sweet friend Busy Philipps who I just adore. Busy and I are practically separated at birth. We look very similar, we have similar jobs, and whenever I'm doing anything creative, Busy is always the first person to be like, “Yes, I want to be a part of it.” We have a lovely friendship in that whatever she's doing creatively I want to be a part of and support as well. So Busy came by, we did a portrait in the room, all-natural light, she showed up just no makeup, beautiful, clean skin.

Elysia Fraiture

This is my friend Elysia. I have known her since she was born as her dad Nikolai is in The Strokes with Nick, my husband. She is the most beautiful, sweet, creative young woman. She came by to see me with my eldest daughter, Atlanta. I love her blue eyeshadow and the gap in her teeth. I'm always telling her, never fix that gap.

I have friends who are in their 70s and I have friends who are teenagers. And I feel that I relate to them with the same respect and curiosity because they're individuals and I think I really do meet people where they're at and value everybody as equal in that sense. I don't operate from a place of hierarchy. I just don't have that internal system within me.

My younger daughter Ella was also staying with me for two weeks in the hotel. So not only was I doing interviews and portraits of these people who were visiting, but I also had my daughter who was meeting with model agents. That was a creative thing for her, too. So I was juggling all this creativity and taking care of my 17-year-old daughter.


I think one of the great things about the Chelsea is the people who work there. Mariamu every day would come and knock on the door and ask “Can I tidy up your room?” And inevitably, I was shooting so I was like, “I'm sorry, can you come at this other time?” One day, she came and I asked, “Is it okay, if I take a picture of you?” I love the portrait we did; it's one of my favorite pictures out of the whole series. I think it's just beautiful. And she was so sweet and lovely and gracious with me photographing her. That was really special.

Daniella Pearson

At the Chelsea, I had a suite with amazing light that came in at optimal times of day. So I was able to shoot each person who came for an interview, but then also just friends who popped by to see me. Daniella Pearson, the CEO and founder of Wondermind, a mental health platform, was one of them. She just launched a new project called Breadwinner that's about financial literacy for women.

Sloane Crosley

Right before I interviewed Sloane there was an earthquake. I was in the bathroom getting ready to do this interview and suddenly the building started shaking, and I thought, ‘I don't believe this. This is not happening.’ We brought a little LA to Manhattan.

I talked to Sloane about grief, because her book Grief Is for Peopleis about one of her best friends dying. My dad died around that time, and I'm writing a book about what happens when your entire life your worldview gets shattered.

The other thing that I got to do while I was at the Chelsea was work on my other book. It's called A Guide to an Authentic Life, and it is interviews with all of the wise and wonderful women that I've interviewed over the last 25 years. So I dedicated writing time during this creative residency. And because I interview a lot of writers, I get these great tips from them about how to create a writing practice. Every day I would get up and have this dedicated writing time. I actually made quite a lot of progress during this creative residency.

Dressed for the New Museum's Spring Gala

At the Chelsea

Featuring Monastery

It was such a gift for me to have the opportunity to be at the Chelsea and to just let myself create and that's what I did. I was very disciplined about not focusing on anything else. I did go out one night to the New Museum, a gala that my friend Tracee Ellis Ross was hosting honoring Mickalene Thomas. I love Tracee, and Mickalene is one of my favorite contemporary artists so that all fell under my bucket of creative inspiration. It was fun to dress up and [stylist and Coveteur Fashion Editor at large] Sarah Clary was kind and helped me with my outfit because I always wear the same stuff. Whatever is in the bag, whatever is in the closet, I'll put it on. That was a really fun creative experiment. I love how Sarah Clary thinks. I'm going to go with what she picks for me. I wore this epic diamond necklace and earrings and had hair and makeup done. I felt like it was kind of a makeover for my creative stay at the Chelsea Hotel.

Amanda de Cadenet

Daniella Pierson

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