Paul Jasmin Doesn’t Want Famous Friends (Unless You’re Judy Garland)
Welcome to Saint Laurent’s Interview: a collaborative project between our editors and Saint Laurent’s Creative Director Anthony Vaccarello, featuring Q&As with some of our favorite creatives of the moment. You’ll also find original fashion editorials and a portfolio of archival Interview photos of the likes of Bianca Jagger, Winona Ryder, and Keanu Reeves, all reimagined in Saint Laurent by the collage artist Fabrizio Massimiani.
INTERVIEW: Having shot for countless publications, including this one, for the past five decades, what in your mind makes an iconic image?
PAUL JASMIN: If you are photographing somebody and they’re posing, there’s no emotion. As soon as there’s a thought, the eye changes and it adds an emotion. Once they’re emotional, it’s out of the water. You’re fine. There’s a book I’m reading, Avedon: Something Personal by Norma Stevens, who was his studio manager for his whole career, and it talks about the way that he tricked people into doing what he wanted. There’s a story in the book about shooting the Windsors, and he said they were such cool people and he wanted to capture that. He found out on the way over there that they were real dog freaks. All they cared about were little dogs. He was 50 minutes late, and he said, “I’m sorry for being late, but my car ran over a little dog on the way here.” Their mouths dropped, and that was the picture he wanted.
INTERVIEW: Have you ever become friends with someone you photographed?
JASMIN: Some of them. A lot of them are neurotic, so I don’t give a shit. If they’re neurotic, they should see a shrink.
INTERVIEW: Have you ever been sucked in by the magnetic pull of celebrity?
JASMIN: When I was young and I first went to New York, around the time of The Factory, I wanted to know Andy Warhol. I wanted to know famous people. I wanted to photograph them. It’s a fascination, and to not have a fascination with something as big as fame means you’re kind of losing out. When I went to New York, I got to know Judy Garland. She was probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. She was famous for running out on her bills at hotels. She really didn’t have any money because everybody screwed her. One night she asked me out to dinner and told me that it was her birthday but that everybody else was busy. So we went to Trader Vic’s, around the corner from The Plaza where she was staying. We ordered the food and the bill came, and Judy never carried money. Never. Big stars never carried money. I didn’t have any money, either. I was a student, a starving artist, so she said, “Walk fast!” The waiter came, and she said to him, “You don’t know who I am?” And he said “No.” She said, “Well, I’m Judy Garland.” And he said, “I don’t know a Judy Garland.” And she said, “You don’t know Judy Garland? I have made the world laugh.” And she turned around, and we ran around the corner, and she laid down on the steps of the Plaza and laughed. She thought that was the funniest thing.
INTERVIEW: Getting to dine and dash with Judy Garland is a unique experience.
JASMIN: The culture back then was so different. It’s why I love to teach, because I can connect to my students through history, and I think that’s what is lacking today in our society of smartphones. The 21st century is just inspiration on an iPhone.
INTERVIEW: Do you think the new generation has a different relationship to photography than you did?
JASMIN: Totally. Now it’s all instant gratification. I love thinking, “I hope I got it.” And I usually have.
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