Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles is a fantastical folly in the land of make-believe. As Harry Cohn, the founder of Columbia Pictures, said in 1939, “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” Several generations of actors, directors, writers and artists have heeded Cohn’s advice, including Dorothy Parker , F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hunter S. Thompson and The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison. Asleep at the Chateau pays homage to this fabled place by picturing its quieter moments, as photographer Jork Weismann portrays a range of celebrities asleep at the Chateau–among them Bret Easton Ellis, Rose McGowan, Eva Longoria, Patti Smith. Here, he fills us in on why a photographer’s vision and execution always starts “in the head.”
Life+Times: Asleep at the Chateau pays homage to Chateau Marmont on LA’s Sunset Boulevard, one of the most iconic hotels. What is it about this property that you were most drawn to?
Jork Weismann: I was drawn in by its history and the people it attracts. I also like the interior design — it’s very sensitively lit and attractive for a photographer. I knew of the interiors through Helmut Newton‘s images — without knowing more about the hotel. It was quite interesting to spend time where he lived for such a long period of time.
L+T: In your book you pay homage to this fabled place by picturing its quieter moments, portraying a range of celebrities asleep within the buildings confines. Why did you come up with the idea of showcasing these people asleep?
JW: The idea came to me accidentally. I was assigned to take a portrait of Annie Leibowitz and asked her to close her eyes for the picture, mostly to show that a photographer’s vision starts in the head. It turned out to be a very intimate but not compromising picture. It was interesting for me to realize that powerful people do not lose their charisma by giving up control while sleeping. This is why I chose a setting where people like her spend time. It is also about trust — to be asleep you have to be relaxed and trust the environment you’re sleeping in. This is an interesting fact about some hotels, especially for celebrities who show a lot of trust in a place by staying there regularly. I was reminded of a sentence in a Godard movie that’s stayed with me: “Good sleep releases me from myself.”
L+T: Your work has appeared in magazines such as Purple, Marie Claire, and Monocle. Why make a book now?
JW: I love the idea of producing images that are presented in a show for a month, a week, or even a day, and then you’re on to something new. But somehow I felt that it was time for me to focus on one very simple thing. The series for the book is a lot about repetition. I like to look at it with a bit of humor, like a joke where you tell the same thing over and over again until it gets funny.
L+T: Of all the stories that have taken place inside the Chateau Marmont, from Jim Morrison falling off the roof to Howard Hughes taking up his extended residence, what is it about this place that you find so magical?
JW: I find it quite interesting that places can encourage certain behaviors or situations. Nietzsche said at one point that he thought all his life about philosophic problems and that he now knows that the most important thing in life is where you live and what you eat. There’s a feeling at the Chateau that’s very uplifting. Patti Smith told me that whenever she comes here, she wants to stay and write a book. I think that sums it up. It’s is a place where you feel very comfortable but also highly inspired.
L+T: What are you currently working on these days?
JW: I am currently preparing two new series that I’ll begin work on as soon as the financing is worked out. I’m also trying to get a few editorial shoots together…
L+T: What was the process like in putting together this book? How did you decide the order in which the images appear?
JW: I am the worst at that, so I left it to Damiani, my wife, my assistant and a friend.