We spoke with the incredibly talented Paul Westlake to talk about what inspires him to take such striking photographs and how his exceptional magazine Pan & The Dream came about.
Thank you! I really love the word ethereal and all its implications. I see things in a certain way which definitely does lean classical.
When I first started photographing in earnest I was testing ideas with friends and models, looking for a framework, a script that I could work with, call my own. I noticed that when things really worked I’d entered a zone in which the ‘regular' me more or less disappeared and I was literally on the other side of the looking glass. It was like a door opened and I stepped through. At first this was very random, but over time I discovered how to get there and that became my method. So in this respect it is natural. That said, of course technically one has to put in the years in order to master the craft. The camera workings, light-values, film etc, that all has to be second nature. Only then are you free.
My first real crush was Michelangelo Antonioni’s film ‘Blow Up’. I was sixteen, that movie totally infected my imagination. Especially that scene with Verushka. OMG, dare to dream. I desperately knew I wanted to photograph Verushka like that. You know all the great photographers of that time were a total inspiration, absolute giants. People like Bailey, Sarah Moon, William Klein, Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton, Avedon, Penn. Their photographs were impossibly dynamic and interesting and they fueled the imagination of an entire generation of photographers, myself included.
Definitely agree with you there. What gets you excited or inspires you?
I love cinema. It’s a treasure trove. And I love a certain type of literary fiction. Paul Bowles comes to mind easily. Of course I am always inspired by great photographers. Or the ones I consider great. I love seeing master works in a gallery. The standout and probably my favorite of all time is Sarah Moon’s ‘Coincidences’ - her mysterious, dreamlike images just floor me. Both the Irving Penn and Avedon exhibitions at The Met were mind blowing. Helmut Newton at the Barbican, Guy Bourdin at the V & A, Nobuyoshi Araki at the Musée Guimet, Jacques Henri Lartigue at the Centre Pompidou. All just incredible. The recent William Klein exhibition at the International Center for Photography in New York. That was totally inspiring. Also The 1972 Diane Arbus Retrospective Revisited, Cataclysm: shown at David Zwirner’s gallery on 20th Street. So brilliant.
The magazine you co-founded, Pan & the Dream, is so elegantly refined. How did the concept come about?
Around 2015 my partner Nathalie Agussol and I were lamenting the fact that most of our assignments were kind of lame and unfulfilling. As an antidote we decided to self publish our own magazine. Nathalie has an art and fashion background and I have worked as a fashion photographer for many years. We simply married those elements together to create Pan & The Dream. The very first edition was released in 2017 and we do one a year. It’s a lot of work but very fulfilling. The creative direction is done by Nathalie and I handle the production side of things mostly. Of course we bounce ideas around together, we do our own shoots, we gather work from contributors around the world, and then finally work with various designers to create each unique edition. The magazine has been collected now by some pretty amazing institutions, as part of their libraries' permanent collections.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
The Art Institute of Chicago, IL
The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
The Royal Library, Copenhagen
Palm Springs Photo Festival, CA
George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY
That is quite an impressive list. What are you currently working on?
I’m in the midst of putting a book together drawn from my images, both past and present. It’s a little overwhelming.
Do you have a photo or experience that you find most memorable?
That’s impossible. There are just so many moments.
Is there anyone you would like to work with in the future?
Tilda Swinton ….if you happen to read this….. ;)
Thank you Paul for taking the time to chat with us!