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LaChapelle in 2005
|Born|| March 11, 1963 |
LaChapelle in 2005
|Born|| March 11, 1963 |
He is best known for his photography, which often references art history and sometimes conveys social messages. His photographic style has been described as "hyper-real and slyly subversive" and as "kitsch pop surrealism." One 1996 article called him the "Fellini of photography," a phrase that continues to be applied to him.
David LaChapelle was born in Fairfield, Connecticut and lived there until he was nine years old. Then he moved to North Carolina with his family, where they lived until he was fourteen, before moving back to Connecticut. He has said to have loved the public schools in Connecticut and thrived in their art program as a child and teenager, although he struggled with bullying growing up. He also attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and School of Visual Arts in New York City. His first photograph was of his mother, Helga LaChapelle, on a family vacation in Puerto Rico.
He was bullied in his North Carolina school for being gay. When he was 15 years old, he ran away from home to become a busboy at Studio 54 in New York City. Eventually he returned to North Carolina to enroll in the North Carolina School of Arts. He underwent basic training in the United States Marine Corps and was married to a woman for a brief time. In the 1980s he moved back to New York where he earned money to buy photography equipment through prostitution.
LaChapelle was affiliated in the 1980s with 303 Gallery which also exhibited artists such as Doug Aitken and Karen Kilimnik; however, the gallery terminated its relationship with LaChapelle. After a poorly-attended show in 1991, he decided to stop exhibiting his artistic photography.
When LaChapelle was 17 years old, he met Andy Warhol, who offered him his first job as a photographer at Interview magazine. Warhol reportedly told LaChapelle "Do whatever you want. Just make sure everybody looks good." His photographs of celebrities in Interview garnered positive attention, and before long he was shooting for a variety of top editorial publications. LaChapelle's friends during this period included Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
LaChapelle’s images subsequently appeared on the covers and pages of magazines such as Details, GQ, i-D, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Face, Vanity Fair, Vogue Italia, and Vogue Paris.
His commercial photographs have been collected in a number of books. LaChapelle Land (1996) was selected as one of 101 "Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century" and is "highly valued by collectors." His second book, Hotel LaChapelle (1999), was described as a "garish, sexy, enchanting trip." In the course of promoting Heaven To Hell (2006), LaChapelle ran a contest on MySpace whose prize was a photo shoot with him; the winner, Molly Gottschalk, became his assistant. LaChapelle, Artists and Prostitutes (2006), a limited-edition, signed, numbered book 19.7 inches (50 cm) high and 13.6 inches (35 cm) wide, contains 688 pages of photographs taken between 1985 and 2005. Artists and Prostitutes was published by Taschen and includes a photograph of the publisher Benedikt Taschen in a sadomasochism scene.
In 1995 David LaChapelle shot the famous ‘kissing sailors’ advertisement for Diesel. It was staged at the peace celebration of World War II and became one of the first public advertisements showing a homosexual couple kissing. Much of its controversy was due it being published at height of the Don't ask, Don't tell debates in USA, which had led to the U.S. Government to bar openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. In a long article published by Frieze in 1996, the advertisement was credited for its “overarching tone of heavy-handed humor and sarcasm”. In September 2011 when the Don't ask, Don't tell law was finally removed by President Barack Obama, Renzo Rosso, the founder and president of Diesel who originally had approved and pushed for the advertisement, said “16 years ago people wouldn't stop complaining about this ad. Now it’s (open bi- and homosexuality in the U.S. Military) finally accepted legally.”
Themes in his art photography, which he has developed in his Maui retreat, include salvation, redemption, paradise, and consumerism. Nevertheless, some art critics have characterized his recent work as "stale," "simple-minded," and "gimmicky." His fine art work frequently features models/muses: Amanda Lepore and Katie Johnson.
LaChapelle cites a number of artists who have influenced his photography. In a 2009 interview, he mentioned the Baroque painters Andrea Pozzo and Caravaggio as two of his favorites. Critics have noted that LaChapelle's work has been influenced by Salvador Dalí, Jeff Koons, Michelangelo, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.
LaChapelle directed singer Elton John's show, The Red Piano at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace, which premiered in 2004. The show features extensive use of video technology on an LED screen backing the show that, when built, was promoted as the largest and brightest of all time. Several of John's songs during the performance are accompanied by short films by LaChapelle.
His interest in film led him to make the 2004 short documentary Krumped, an award-winner at the Sundance Film Festival. It concerned the Los Angeles dance style krumping. After Krumped he self-financed and developed RIZE (2005).
In 1997, actress Mira Sorvino complained about LaChapelle's digitally altering her photograph to make her look like Joan Crawford. The 2005 photograph “The House at the End of the World,” showing a woman and a baby in front of a house that appears to have been destroyed by a hurricane, was criticized because it was published in Vogue Italia about the time of Hurricane Katrina; LaChapelle pointed out that he took the picture well before the hurricane occurred. A 2010 paper in a philosophy journal criticized Rize for appropriation of African American culture and for not "politiciz[ing] the social and economic structures responsible for the systemic oppression facing his documentary's subjects."
LaChapelle sued Rihanna, The Island Def Jam Music Group, Melina Matsoukas, and Black Dog Films In February 2011 for copyright infringement related to the music video for the song "S&M." In the suit, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, LaChapelle alleged that the video infringed upon eight of his photographs by copying their "composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting." In July 2011 judge Shira Scheindlin denied a motion to dismiss the copyright violation allegations. The judge wrote that the video copied "protectible elements" of LaChapelle's photographs "Striped Face," "Latex," and "Noisy Fame," and that the defendants' claim of fair use of LaChapelle's photographs was "misguided." In October 2011 the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
LaChapelle sued Fred Torres, his former lover, business agent, and printer, in December 2012. LaChapelle claimed that Torres owed him $2.8 million from sales of prints and $755,000 in loans. In turn, Torres filed a suit in March 2013 against LaChapelle for not paying $25 million in expenses and for stealing a client list worth up to $50 million.
His father was Philip LaChapelle and his mother is Helga LaChapelle; he has a sister Sonja and a brother Philip. LaChapelle credits his mother for influencing his art direction in the way she set up scenes for family photos in his youth.
LaChapelle has bipolar disorder and has been in a psychiatric hospital three times. He has cited the following reasons for his return to fine-art photography in 2006: overwork; fear of HIV/AIDS, which caused the death of a former boyfriend (although LaChapelle tested negative); and a desire to not "work for pop stars or magazines anymore" because of the stress involved. In particular, LaChapelle cites a conflict with Madonna over the video to her song "Hung Up."
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