When I flip through the pages in Paul Jasmin’s latest book California Dreaming, I come to think about the song Being Boring – the second single from Pet Shop Boys’ album Behaviour. The black and white footage of the video opens with a nude boy coming out of a pool. The video continues with scenes of excited young people preparing for party – it’s filled with stunningly beautiful boys and girls. The underlying theme is very similar to what Paul Jasmin is dealing with in his photography: youth, beauty and dreams.
When you realize that it’s Bruce Weber who did that video for Pet Shop Boys it all makes sense – he´s one of Paul Jasmin´s oldest and best friends.
Good morning Paul, how are you?
Congratulations, the new book is finally out in Europe and it looks fantastic.
Yes, the paper and the printing is beautiful. But that´s always the case with books from Steidl. I just saw this very nice black and white book by Eggleston.
California Dreaming contains only recent works, how long did it take to put it together?
Many of the photographs have been shot in and around my apartment on Wilshire Blvd. A lot of them where done just a bit more than one year ago, especially for the book. So most of the images are from the last two years.
Your photography is all about youth, beauty and dreams, am I right?
The older I get, the more I realize that it´s all about dreams. That´s why I like California – it´s all about dreaming. Especially when your young, it´s the dream that keeps you going. That´s what I enjoy taking pictures of, these young people, dreamers, striving to become an actor, a model or an artist.
Many of the images in the book are of kids of friends. One of my best friends, Lisa Love, her daughter is in the book. She´s a ballet dancer, but now she´s ending up modelling for photographers like Mikael Jansson and Bruce Weber.
All my images are from a movie in one way or another. It´s a sort of romanticism. They reflects alot of me in that age – I was born in Montana but I wanted to go to Hollywod and become an actor.
Are there other photographers you relate to?
There are so many talented young photgraphers: Willy Vaderperre, Ryan McGinley and even Mert & Marcus. They all ad glamour and mysticism to fashion and that´s important. There are too many reality magazines out there. We need things to appear a little bit more beautiful than they actually are…
I had lunch with Ryan the other day, he told me about his pictures, how they all are all about his fantasies and imagination. He said he wished that he could live in his own pictures: running around naked in the woods and hiding in caves, hahaha…
You´re also teaching photography. Is this a part of connecting to youth and dreams?
Yes, you know I was going to quit – I´m 75 years old!
But once a week I go there and teach. Or I try to introduce them to dreams. I use to tell the kids: – Do everything! You never know where you will end up.
You have been doing all these different things: illustrations, acting, painting… How did you end up a photographer?
As a painter I took pictures to paint from, but then I started to like the photos better. I still think of my photography as ”painterly”…
When was this?
I was about 40 years old.
But Magnus, I´m really sorry, I need to end it here for now – I have a portrait to do for Teen Vogue this afternoon. It´s a young actress working on her dream, Hollywood collects these dreamers…
Paul Jasmin lives and works in Los Angeles where he teaches at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He was born in Helena, Montana in 1935. He had been an illustrator, a painter and an actor, before finally picking up a camera. His editorial work appears in Vogue, Teen Vogue, GQ, Details, V magazine, Vogue Hommes, W and Interview. Paul’s photography books include Hollywood Cowboy (2002) and Lost Angeles (2004).
Magnus Naddermier is the art director of La Lettre de la Photographie. He has the pleasure to work with Mr Jasmin from time to time.