How Photographer David LaChapelle Became a Pop-Art Icon – Rolling Stone

David LaChapelle Catch a flight. The flight was about to take off, and its imminence was made very clear by those connected with LaChapelle, who was still within earshot of LaChapelle, still deeper into the yellow room beside the crackling fire in the Greenwich Hotel. On the green velvet sofa, ordered tea and scones. “Those lunatics with truffle oil,” he said, then turned to me gleefully. “You have to try one. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Of course, that’s what people say about LaChapelle’s work, and no matter what he’s shooting, his daylight-toned, semi-surreal, visual orgy is one of the many celebrity covers he’s done for the magazine (see below and above photo), tons of editorials, a Kardashian Christmas card — a successful blend of high concept and pop art without a hint of cynicism. He filmed a naked Naomi Campbell dousing herself in milk, a naked Pamela Anderson in a giant terrarium, a naked Miley Cyrus (Miley Cyrus) in solitary confinement, naked Tupac in the shower. He relocated an old gas station to the Hawaiian rainforest for an Edward Hopper-inspired commentary on the confrontation between nature and man.He randomly picked people he met at Trader Joe’s in his shoots and reinterpreted Titian’s rape europa Campbell lolling next to a lamb (rape africa, 2009). He has been called “the Fellini of photography” and a master of fables. He had a model push a mummy in a wheelchair down Vegas Boulevard.

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“His look is very special, kind of outrageous,” said former creative director Jodi Peckman. rolling stoneadding that “shooting is like a theatrical production.” They’re also often loud and fun: His East Village studio has a secret bedroom upstairs, and, he says, “people like Whitney and Bobby go to… Hmmm… hang out.” Pekerman made sure to pair him with “adventurous” artists who were willing to play and subvert their image and get involved.

Many of these photos and more are in make believe, The retrospective at New York’s Fotografiska Museum runs until January 8, 2023—the first time an artist has taken over the entire building at the venue. But that’s not what LaChapelle, 59, wants to talk about when Scones Crazy arrives. No, what keeps him fixed on the chartreuse velvet as the clock ticks and the handlers wander is “soul stuff,” he says.Not just religious imagery in LaChapelle’s work, from a photo series called “Jesus Is My Boyfriend” – in which he recreates The Last Supper In a kitschy city apartment — his 2006 photo of Kanye West wearing a crown of thorns. He wanted to talk about true faith. Because here’s the thing: glaciers are melting. Amazon is burning. Humanity is trying to deal with existential fear, and LaChapelle doesn’t know how he’s going to deal with it if he doesn’t believe it’s all part of some master plan. “I forgot who said religion is the opiate of the masses,” he shared. “But I thought, ‘Okay, shoot me.'”

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What he was trying to make clear was this: He wasn’t making fun of religion, but was relying on it deeply, artistically, and personally. If there’s anything to take away from the Fotografiska exhibition, it’s not any commentary on consumerism (although there is) or celebrity (although there is) or identity (although there is); An elixir that captures the divine and uncapturable beauty, one image at a time.

That’s a lot to deal with, especially from someone who used to film naked Eminem with a dynamite dick. But hear him out. His father was Catholic and his mother was an artist who believed in “the cathedral of the forest” and “making things really magical,” and she painted watercolors on the windows to make them look like stained glass. They live in rural Connecticut. They have a big garden. They are walking in the woods. LaChapelle said he knew he was gay when he was five years old, but never came out to his family because he didn’t need to; they got it. At 14, he and his boyfriend Kenny, who attended a nearby school, took a bus to the Port Authority of New York and found their way to Studio 54, where they were quickly ushered in. “People always ask me, ‘How did you get into school when you were 14?'” he said. “I thought, ‘We’re going in because We are 14 years old. We somehow got into the VIP room that night, and the villagers were all there, the Hemingway sisters, Bruce Jenner, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Halston, everyone. ”

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By 15, he had given up going to a school where people would throw milk cartons over his head just to dress like a cowboy. Seduced by the East Village “utopia,” he ran away from home, crashed his car on 1st Street and 1st Avenue, and lived in the rent-regulated apartment of a woman named Vanessa who worked for CBGB and sometimes Plasmatics spokeswoman (“Wendy Williams will get arrested for masturbating with a sledgehammer somewhere in the Midwest. Vanessa will get on the bus to be interviewed by a local news reporter”). He tended tables at a nightclub called Magique and frequented the Art Students League on 57th Street. He danced disco, he partyed at the Mudd Club, and Keith Haring would paint the glasses by the door and let all the underage kids in. One day, LaChapelle’s dad showed up at Vanessa’s house and drove him to an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts: “I thought, ‘Dad, I’m in love with DJs!’ He just kind of laughed at me and said, ‘Pack your bags.'” “

Photo by David LaChapelle

Without the cowboy cops, LaChapelle thrived at art school, where he made the transition from painting to photography.A year later, he found his way back to Vanessa, with enough skill to eventually get himself hired by Warhol interview. He works at Studio 54, and his application process involved taking off his shirt for a Polaroid. He moved into a “half squat” with his boyfriend, dancer Luis Albert, where he ran wires through the windows for electricity and took some of the earliest photos on the Fotografiska show. He photographs socialite weddings (“Almost everyone is divorced, but I can live off one wedding for a year”). He thought he had basically landed in heaven.

Then the AIDS crisis hit. “The hardest part is you can’t properly mourn your friend because you don’t know if you’re next,” LaChapelle said of the time. “You have so much fear that you can’t even wallow yourself in mourning.” Instead, he’d pay $17 to ride the bus back to Connecticut and swim in a reservoir near his parents’ house when suddenly he knew that Ai He was there when Bert would die. “It was a hunch I had before he got sick,” LaChapelle said. “Just a wave of knowing ‘Louis won’t be here.'”

As more and more friends passed away, he began to think about where their souls were going, which he said “actually brought me closer to God” and convinced him that “God is love” and “is not the cause of disease” and disease , death and pain. ’ He found a client who agreed to make four sets of giant angel wings for $2,000 (“all the money I had in the world”), and started taking friends to Connecticut to photograph them at a place he frequented to meditate and pray.” I don’t think I’ve been here very long,” he said. “So I just wanted to take some pictures, not for a legacy, but to have a purpose of being. In 1984, his first show was held in a friend’s loft a block from Fotografiska, and the invitation included a photo of Albert. He died of AIDS a few weeks later, at the age of 24.

Photo by David LaChapelle

Other things happened. Although LaChapelle hadn’t been tested for HIV in 12 years, when he was tested, he was shocked to find that he had tested negative. He has worked with Act Up. He married a woman for reasons he didn’t even know – “well, we were doing a little ecstasy” – and followed her back to London, where he was with Leigh Bowery and the boys George (Boy George) acquainted. He took the last photograph of Warhol.He directed a music video and a film called Rize, And started calling magazines and telling them who he wanted to shoot, which is the opposite of what usually happens. He found out he was bipolar, spent days in a psychiatric ward, and then managed to get out in time to direct a music video for Mariah Carey.By the mid-2000s, he said, “I made these rules for myself. I had to come up with three magazine covers and a top 10 video TRL. I am a workaholic. In 2006, after an employee pointed out they hadn’t had a break in 11 months, he bought a former nudist colony while filming exteriors in Maui and arranged for most of his life. Sometimes it It worked.


These photographs of angels are some of the first to appear in the Fotografiska exhibition, but they are grouped and correspond directly with the newest: intricate religious themes and iconography in the verdant Hawaiian wilderness. “Michelangelo said he found evidence of God in the beauty of man — I would like to add,” La Chapelle said. “I found God in nature.” In fact, the recent photos are so religious that LaChapelle has reservations about showing them. “Honestly, I freaked out,” he told me, explaining that it was a bit like he’d never felt like this before. “That’s where people go, ‘Wow, he really likes Jesus or something.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. That’s true.'” He smiles, blissfully. “In art and fashion, if you want to shock anyone, talk about Jesus.”

He wiped the scones clean, much to the relief of the manager who had urged him to get in his car to JFK. Of course, he will take off. He will sit down, relax, and ascend to heaven.


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