Tyrell Hampton Reminisces Over The Major Moments At NYC’s Iconic Nightlife Venue, China Chalet

Tyrell Hampton Reminisces Over The Major Moments At NYC’s Iconic Nightlife Venue, China Chalet

Tyrell Hampton Reminisces Over The Major Moments At NYC’s Iconic Nightlife Venue, China Chalet

The photobook had its first release earlier this month — and it’s proving to be quite the hot commodity.

The photobook had its first release earlier this month — and it’s proving to be quite the hot commodity.

Text: Valerie Stepanova

Tyrell Hampton is no stranger to turning his camera onto fashion A-listers and members of New York's creative party crowd. 

In his short yet mighty career, the young Philly native has lensed celebrities and it-girls like FKA Twigs, Mona Tougaard and Kaia Gerber and worked for big fashion and beauty brands including Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang, Coach, Glossier and — most recently — Marc Jacobs. Following his rise to fame when his candid, direct-flash shots of the city’s major club moments made their way to celeb IG accounts, the talented Parsons graduate went on to photograph for swanky fashion magazines like Vogue, GQ, i-D and, yours truly, V.

Come 2020, Ty has garnered enough snapshots to put together his own photobook titled “China Chalet: Memories.” After the iconic dim sum restaurant and downtown party spot (whose reverence has been compared to that of Studio 54) closed down earlier this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ty decided to pay the venue its due respect and put together a photobook that can serve as a visual representation of the times past — before the masks were mandatory and hand sanitizer bottles established themselves as the new dinner party must-haves.

“This is for my community. This is for all the people who stayed until the lights came on. This is for the kids with fake IDs. This is for the people who weren’t on the list. This is for all the people who got too fucked up to remember the night. This is for us. These are our memories.” 

A partnership with Good Taste, a site-specific art exhibition platform and publishing company, the book had its first signed release with Dashwood Books earlier this month and sold out in 24 hours of their first order. Alongside the photos is a brief interview with the founders of China Chalet’s most popular monthly party, Club Glam — DeSe Escobar, Fiffany Luu and Kyle Luu. To celebrate the victorious launch, we spoke with Ty about the project, how it all came together and where he hopes to channel his creative energy going into the future.

V Magazine Tell me a little bit about your story with China Chalet — when and how did you first get introduced to the iconic club/restaurant?

Tyrell Hampton When I moved to New York to attend Parsons in 2015, one of my peers took me to China Chalet. I couldn't get in, so I snuck in through the back. When I walked in... It was like everything I imagined New York to be. Coming from Philadelphia, the only perception I had of the city was what I had seen on TV. When I finally moved here, it was somewhat disappointing because it wasn't the way it was in the movies. But at China Chalet... I finally got to witness the dreamy and unreal New York fashion scene. After that, I never missed a party. Even if I had to go alone. This place birthed my photographic identity — now, all my work mimics the chaotic and claustrophobic adventures of being in a club.

V The closing was announced back in July. Was it then that you decided to put together this photobook? Did you approach Good Taste with the project or they approached you?

TH When it closed down, I knew I wanted to make a photobook because of how many images I had but didn't have any resources. Paige [Silveria] (the founder and curator of Good Taste) initially reached out for some of my images to accompany an article she was doing. I told her I was thinking of doing a book because I wanted to say goodbye correctly. Paige offered to help me, and here we are! 

V This past week, you have released signed copies with Dashwood Books and they all sold out in 24 hours of their first order. Are these books going to be available anywhere else in the weeks (and years!) to come?

TH Books will be available in LA and London in 2021. We're pushing for worldwide but also taking it one step at a time. Dashwood has been the best collaborator — Paige introduced me to the team and it's been great to get feedback from customers and see how the book lives in the world.

Jordan Daniels

V What do you want people to see and/or feel when they flip through the pages of “China Chalet: Memories”?

TH I want people to see that it was more than a club; it was a fantasy. I can only hope that my images make people remember clubbing and the feeling of being on the dance floor. Although my images only date back a couple of years, if you've ever gone to China Chalet — you know it has a specific energy that no other club can mimic. I also want the people in the images to recollect those memories and smile!

V How would you describe the experience of being there to someone who has never been to the venue before? What was it like?

TH I would compare China Chalet to Studio 54. Anything was possible there: when you walked in, you all of a sudden felt like a celebrity because people were dressed in the best fashion, smoking inside, the bar was always full, line for the bathroom, dance floor packed. You could even run into your favorite celebrity by accident! It was so unreal and magical that it felt scripted, like a TV show — because everything was so perfect.

V You say that the book features a brief interview with the founders of China Chalet’s most popular monthly party, Club Glam. Who are they, what do you know about them? Why was it important to include this brief interview alongside the images?

TH The book includes an interview with Fiffany [Luu], Kyle [Luu] and DeSe [Escobar] because the best parties could always be traced back to them. They are the faces of China Chalet and a lot of other major club moments. Again, I've only been going for a couple of years but these girls have created a space for people to escape and just have fun. Although I had to sneak in for the majority of those years, they always acknowledged me and my photos. They created a home for me and many others and for that I'm so grateful. They've been throwing prolific parties, before I even knew what it was, so it was important to showcase my appreciation.

Ethan James Green and Duckie

V This is the first book that you’re publishing. Would you like to keep doing that in the future?

TH Yes, a lot more books in the future!! 

V What’s next for you? What are you currently working on or excited about?

TH A lot of campaigns and projects in 2021. I'm excited to keep working with Dua and I'm very excited about February! 

V And speaking more generally, what do you hope to do and achieve with your work?

TH I hope to photograph everyone in the world, a big goal but it's very possible. I want my images to make people remember YOLO and to me that means just to live every day like it is the last, to smile and to enjoy. 

Elizabeth Hilfiger

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