Sleep, according to those who don’t like to do much of it, is just practice for death. Two terrific new monographs, one from German fashion photographer Jork Weismann and the other by Mexican crime photographer Enrique Metinides, contemplate both the nightly practice for the afterlife and the real thing.
Weismann’s slightly ridiculous book, Asleep at the Chateau, (Damiani, $50) is, predictably, a series of portraits of celebrities asleep at the Chateau Marmont. The Chateau, for those uninitiated into the mysteries of show biz, is a Hollywood hotel where celebrities go to do drugs and contemplate the importance of their lives. It has a nice pool.
The images are pretty and provide insights into the lives of the dozers. Eva Longoria sleeps nude. So does, somewhat less attractively, Purple magazine’s Olivier Zahm. Lizzy Caplan sleeps with her sunglasses on. John Hodgman sleeps with his glasses off. RZA sleeps with a blunt in his hand, and Patti Smith (pictured above) evidently finds James Joyce a snooze.
If sleep is shallow death and celebrities inhabit the shallow depth, 101 Tragedies of Enrique Metinides (Aperture, $50) plumbs more profound pools. Metinides, often called the Mexican Weegee, spent his career photographing crime scenes for Mexican nota roja, the daily papers whose pages drip with victims’ blood. This book consists of 101 of the most striking selections from his gruesome oeuvre.
The slumber from which his subjects suffer was rarely arrived upon gently and never in a less–than–spectacular manner. Perhaps one of the best images—if best can be a word used in connection with human calamity—is the portrait of Adela Legarreta Rivas, a Mexican journalist killed in an automobile accident in 1979. Rivas, the book notes, was on her way to a press conference, her hair and make–up done, when she was struck by a white Datsun.
Many of the other images from the book depict the notably less manicured: Buses aflame, car crash victims impaled, the shot atop the irregular crimson outflow of blood. Most of the images are of the dead, but some, including one Metinides shot in flagrante delicto of a supermarket shootout, push the viewer into the uncomfortable position of feeling awe at the capturing of a moment, admiration of the beauty of it, and horror at the human misery it depicts.
Though Metinides has slowed down with age, a new generation of Mexican photojournalists have had more than enough carnage to capture. There have been 5,037 murders in Mexico so far this year alone. But taken as an unlikely pair, these books drive home the point that death can visit you anywhere; in a car, the street, the supermarket, or even at your suite at the Chateau Marmont.