The Sleeping and the Beauties

Asleep At The Chateau

Jork Weismann is an internationally acclaimed fashion and portrait photographer. He works together with supermodels like Gisele Bündchen, Tatjana Patitz, or Toni Garrn. His images are intense and minimalist. His hometown is Vienna. We met for a drink and asked him if we could publish his wonderful photo series Asleep At The Chateau, in which he portrayed sleeping celebrities – strictly confidential at the legendary Sunset Boulevard hotel Chateau Marmont. Stars like Greta Garbo and James Dean took up residency there. Led Zeppelin rode their motorcycles through the lobby. Jim Morrison fell from the roof and survived. As Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures once said: “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”     

“If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”  

You portray people in diverse environments – in their apartments, studios, in nature, or on the film set. What’s your favorite location?

It doesn’t matter to me, really, I think I don’t have a particular preference. But it definitely works quite well in the studio; there’s just the person, it’s very direct, and everything happens without distractions …

… or you shoot in a hotel, like the famous Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, legendary for its parties and prominent guests!

The hotel does have certain significance for photographers, after all, Helmut Newton spent his winters there and made several of his renowned images. When I was there for the first time – I was shooting a calendar for the hotel chain “The Standard”, which incidentally is also owned by the Chateau Marmont hotelier André Balazs – I didn’t know anything about its history yet. I had a chat in front of the elevator with a guy wearing a T-shirt with a “Skifahren in Saalbach Hinterglemm” print on it. Afterwards, my companion asked me how I know Ben Affleck. Of course, I didn’t know him! I barely recognize someone on the street, my perception is unfortunately a bit jaded and quite selective. I run around like a blind chicken, so to say.

“I thought nothing is easier than photographing sleeping people, they exude a strange fascination, you can’t help but to look at them.”

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

It was rather spontaneous. I had made a portrait of Annie Leibowitz, where she looks like she is sleeping. I got emails from total strangers saying how much they love this image. I thought nothing is easier than photographing sleeping people, they exude a strange fascination, you can’t help but to look at them. Half joking, I sent an email to André Balazs with the photo of Annie, asking for permission to shoot a book about sleeping people in his hotel, well aware that he hardly ever allows anyone to take pictures there. Surprisingly, the answer came promptly: “It's perfect, let’s do it!”

How was the cooperation with the celebrity hotelier André Balazs, who was or is together with Uma Thurman, among other women – he’s said to be quite charismatic.

André supports artists and ideas he is fond of. He is incredibly charming and highly intelligent. You can have fun with him at a party and, from one second to the next, he can switch and analyze a problem and bring it to the point. In this respect, it is great to realize a project with him.

Is there a different kind of appreciation for your work in the USA?

Yes, the status is different. Photography has a rich tradition there, so it receives deeper appreciation and there is broad interest. Naturally, “image” is an important matter in the US. But this can also produce strange effects!