David LaChapelle

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Not to be confused with Dave Chappelle.
David LaChapelle
David LaChapelle Rudolfinum 4.JPG
LaChapelle in 2011
Born (1963-03-11) March 11, 1963 (age 52)
Hartford, Connecticut
United States
Occupation Commercial photographerfine-art photographer, music video director, film director, artist

David LaChapelle (born March 11, 1963)[1] is an American commercial photographer, fine-art photographer, music video director, film director, and artist.

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".[1][2] One 1996 article called him the "Fellini of photography", a phrase that continues to be applied to him.[3][4][5][6]

Early life[edit]

David LaChapelle was born in Hartford, 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 Fairfield, 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.[7] 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.[6] When he was 15 years old, he ran away from home to become a busboy at Studio 54 in New York City.[1][8] Eventually he returned to North Carolina to enroll in the North Carolina School of Arts.[1]

Photographic career[edit]

Early Life fine-art photography[edit]

LaChapelle was affiliated in the 1980s with 303 Gallery which also exhibited artists such as Doug Aitken and Karen Kilimnik. After people from Interview Magazine saw his work exhibited, LaChapelle was offered to work for the magazine.[9]

Commercial photography[edit]

When LaChapelle was 17 years old, he met Andy Warhol, who offered him his first job as a photographer at Interview magazine.[6][10] Warhol reportedly told LaChapelle "Do whatever you want. Just make sure everybody looks good."[11] 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.[6]

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.[4][8][12][13][14][15]

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".[8][16][17] His second book, Hotel LaChapelle (1999), was described as a "garish, sexy, enchanting trip".[18] Heaven to Hell (2006) featured "almost twice as many images as its predecessors", and "is an explosive compilation of new work by the visionary photographer.[19] 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.[17] Artists and Prostitutes was published by Taschen and includes a photograph of the publisher Benedikt Taschen in a sadomasochism scene.[11]

LaChapelle's work has been called "meticulously created in a high-gloss, color-popping, hyper-realistic style", and his photos are known to, "crackle with subversive – or at least hilarious – ideas, rude energy and laughter. They are full of juicy life."[20]

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 gay or lesbian couple kissing.[21] 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".[21] 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."[22]

Return to fine-art photography[edit]

The photograph "Deluge" at the "Thus Spoke LaChapelle" ("Tak Pravil LaChapelle") exhibition, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, 2011

Themes in his art photography, which he has developed in his Maui retreat, include salvation, redemption, paradise, and consumerism.[6][15][23][24] It is clear that LaChapelle's moving in this, "new direction highlights his interest and understanding of both contemporary practice and art history".[25] His fine art work frequently features models/muses: Amanda Lepore, Carmen Carrera and Katie Johnson. David has photographed a long list of stars that read like the bible. Stars including; Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Whitney Houston, Pamela Anderson, Amanda Lapore, Enzo Junior, Naomi Campbel, Eminem, Drew Barrymore, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Courtney Love, to name but a few.

Artistic influences[edit]

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.[23] Critics have noted that LaChapelle's work has been influenced by Salvador Dalí, Jeff Koons, Michelangelo, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.[5]

Other media[edit]

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 recent years he has exhibited his works at many one-man shows around the world, including the Barbican Museum in London (2002), Palazzo Reale in Milan (2007), the Musée de La Monnaie in Paris (2009), Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City (2009), Kestner Gesellschaft in Germany (2009) and the Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art in Israel (2010), from which he received the honor of Artist of the Year in 2011. Also recently, major retrospectives of his work have been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (2010), Museum of Contemporary Art in Puerto Rico (2011), Hangaram Museum in Korea (2012), Rudolfinum Gallery in Prague (2011/2012), and the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm (2012/2013). Recent acquisitions include Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012), National Portrait Gallery in London (2012), and National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC (2012).

Personal life[edit]

His father was Philip LaChapelle and his mother is Helga LaChapelle; he has a sister Sonja and a brother Philip.[26] LaChapelle credits his mother for influencing his art direction in the way she set up scenes for family photos in his youth.[8]

Then in 2006, the already established LaChapelle abruptly quit the scene. He moved to a "...very isolated part of Hawaii in this forest. It's off the grid, bio-diesel cars, solar-powered, growing our own food, completely sustainable. I thought 'OK, I'm a farmer now.'" LaChapelle's change in path eventually brought him back to his roots. While in Hawaii, a longstanding colleague invited him to shoot for a gallery, which he hadn't done since his days as a fledgling photographer in New York. "I was really shocked", LaChapelle recalled. "I'm so known as a commercial artist, a big name as a fashion and celebrity photographer, I didn't think a gallery will take me seriously. It's like being reborn; it's like rebirth; it's like starting over. It's back to where I started, where I very first started in galleries when I was a kid. It's just come full circle." [27]

Works and awards[edit]


Selected books[edit]

  • LaChapelle Land (New York: Simon & Schuster, in association with Callaway, 1996) - ISBN 0684833026
  • Hotel LaChapelle (Boston: Little, Brown, 1999) - ISBN 0821226363
  • David LaChapelle, second edition (Milan: Photology, 2004) - ISBN 8888359141
  • LaChapelle Land, deluxe edition (New York: Channel Photographics, in association with Callaway, 2005) - ISBN 0976670801
  • LaChapelle, Artists and Prostitutes (Köln: Taschen, 2006) - ISBN 3822816175
  • LaChapelle, Heaven to Hell (Köln: Taschen, 2006) - ISBN 3822825727
  • David LaChapelle (Firenze: Giunti, 2007) - ISBN 9788809057029
  • David LaChapelle: al Forte Belvedere (Firenze: Giunti, 2008) - ISBN 9788809062320
  • David LaChapelle (Hamburg: Stern Gruner + Jahr AG & Co., 2008) - ISBN 9783570197721
  • David LaChapelle: the Rape of Africa (Amsterdam: Reflex, 2009) - ISBN 9789071848070



  • "Best New Photographer of the Year" by both French Photo and American Photo magazines


  • "Photographer of the Year Award" at the VH-1 Fashion Awards


  • "Art Directors Club Award" for Best Book Design for LaChapelle Land


  • Best "Cutting Edge Essay" and "Style Photography" at Life magazine's Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Magazine Photography (the Eisies)


  • Honored in the "Cover of the Year" category at the Eisies



  • 12th Annual MVPA Awards - Adult Contemporary Video of the year - Elton John "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore"






  • "American Cool" – National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. – February 7 – September 7
  • "LAND SCAPE" – Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY – January 17 – February 22



  • "Burning Beauty" – Fotografiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden – November 30, 2012 – March 3, 2013
  • "Still Life" – Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY – November 26, 2012 – January 19, 2013
  • "David LaChapelle" – Busan Exhibition and Convention Center – Busan, South Korea – June 16 – September 16
  • "Jesus is My Homeboy" – Galerie Jablonka, Cologne, Germany – May 14 – August 19
  • "Earth Laughs in Flowers" – Robilant + Voena, Milan – February 16 – March 24


  • "Thus Spoke LaChapelle" – Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague – December 7, 2011 – February 26, 2012
  • "David LaChapelle" – Hangaram Design Museum – Seoul Art Center, Seoul, South Korea – November 22, 2011 – February 26, 2012
  • "NosOtros: La Humanidad Al Borde" – Museo de Arte Contemporaño de Puerto Rico, San Juan – October 23, 2011 – March 25, 2012



  • "Who Shot Rock & Roll" – Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY – October 20, 2009 – January 31, 2010
  • "American Jesus" – Sebastian Guinness Gallery, Dublin – September 18 – October 31
  • "The Rape of Africa" – Galerie Alex Daniels, Amsterdam – June 6 – July 31
  • "Retrospective" – Musée de la Monnaie de Paris, Paris, France – February 6 – May 31
  • "Delirium of Reason" – Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City – February 4 – June 28


"Vanity Fair Portraits" – National Portrait Gallery, London – February 14 – May 18


  • "Awakened" – Galería Leyendecker, Tenerife, Spain – November 9 – December 9
  • "David LaChapelle" – Le Galerie Delphine Pastor, Monaco – May 11 – July 29


  • "Men, War, & Peace" – Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin – December 2, 2006 – May 30, 2007
  • "Heaven to Hell" – Galerie Jablonka, Berlin – November 30, 2006 – February 17, 2007





  • "LaChapelle" – Kunsthaus Wien, Vienna, Austria – June 6 – September 22


  • "David LaChapelle" – Photology, Bologna, Italy – March 4 – July 28
  • "Fish Stick" – Camerawork Gallery, Berlin – September 7 – November 23




  • "LaChapelle Land" – Les Recontres D'Arles, Arles, France – July 5 – August 16



  • "LaChapelle Land" – Staley Wise Gallery, New York, NY – November 8 – November 30




  • "David LaChapelle" – Santa Fe Center for Photography, Santa Fe, NM – February 18 – May 18
  • "Life Never Dies" – Mars, New York, NY – February 11 – May 11
  • "Somewhere Better" – Trabia MacAfee, New York, NY – January 7 – January 28


  • "Grand Windows" – Grand Central Station, New York, NY – December 13
  • "Your Needs Met" – 56 Bleecker Gallery, New York, NY – May 25 – June 25






  1. ^ a b c d Sharkey, Alix (February 4, 2006). "Maximum Exposure: David LaChapelle's hyper-real and slyly subversive portraits have made him the world's hippest photographer. Now rave reviews for his dance doc Rize have made him Hollywood's hottest director. Here, the 'Fellini of Photography' talks to Alix Sharkey about prostitution, hanging out with Warhol and being inspired by Pammy". The Observer. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ Pedro, Laila (July 20, 2010). "Who's Bad? The Kitsch Pop Surrealism of David LaChapelle". Idiom Magazine. Tristan Media LLC. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ Sigesmund, B.J. (November 11, 1996). "Shooting Star: Sexy, campy, and slightly crazed, David LaChapelle is the Fellini of photography. His subjects seem to enjoy the circus". New York 29 (44): 56–58. 
  4. ^ a b Kutner, Janet (June 1, 2005). "Outrageous Fortune - Goss Gallery Opens with a Trove of Celebrity Shooter David LaChapelle's Outré Images". The Dallas Morning News. 
  5. ^ a b Sturges, Fiona (April 23, 2010). "Out of Africa: David LaChapelle's Strange Visions of a Continent". The Independent. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Day, Elizabeth (February 18, 2012). "David LaChapelle: 'Fashion, beauty and glamour are the mark of civilisation'". The Observer. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  7. ^ von Speidel, Krytian. http://bombsite.com/issues/1000/articles/5714 "David LaChapelle" BOMB Magazine retrieved July 19, 2011
  8. ^ a b c d DeCaro, Frank (November 4, 1996). "In LaChapelle Land". Newsweek 128 (19): 60–61. 
  9. ^ Harris, Mark Eduard. "American Photo on Campus". Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  10. ^ Wyma, Chloe (December 6, 2012). "25 Questions for Photographer David LaChapelle". Artinfo. Louise Blouin Media. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Nicholson, Geoff (May 2006). "Stargazing". Modern Painters: 78–83. 
  12. ^ Glueck, Grace (June 25, 1999). "Art In Review; David LaChapelle". The New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ Jones, Dylan (April 29, 2002). "'Does My Tum Look Fat In This?'; Life & Style: What really happened at the David Beckham fashion shoot (and who applied the baby oil?)". Evening Standard. pp. 25–26. 
  14. ^ Davies, Emily (April 21, 2005). "Dark Star of Glitz Blitz: No one quite handles flash, brash trash with the glamour of David LaChapelle". The Times. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Allsop, Laura (December 23, 2010). "Hawaii Retreat Saved My Life, Says LaChapelle". CNN. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  16. ^ Roth, Andrew (2001). The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century. New York: PPP Editions in association with Ruth Horowitz. ISBN 0967077443. 
  17. ^ a b Elbies, Jeffrey (December 16, 2008). "David LaChapelle's Weird World: A mammoth new collector's edition book puts David LaChapelle's astonishing career into perspective". Popular Photography. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  18. ^ Dixon, Glenn (December 17, 1999). ""Annie Leibovitz: Women" (review)". Washington City Paper. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  19. ^ "MoMA Book Store". 
  20. ^ Connor, Tim. "David LaChapelle Earth Laughs in Flowers". The New York Photo Review. 
  21. ^ a b Steele, Valerie (September–October 1996). "Identity Parade". Frieze Magazine. 
  22. ^ "Renzo Rosso". Facebook. 
  23. ^ a b Dannatt, Adrian (April 2009). "David LaChapelle: 'If I could choose any period to have been an artist, it would definitely be the Baroque'". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  24. ^ Tariq, Syma (February 6, 2009). "Shooting Star: David LaChapelle's Search for Redemption". The Guardian. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  25. ^ Oliver, William. "David LaChapelle's return to fine art". The Art Newspaper. 
  26. ^ "LaChapelle, Philip (obituary)". Hartford Courant. September 23, 2002. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  27. ^ Ong, Iliyas. "Interview: David LaChapelle and His Return to Art". Design Taxi. 
  28. ^ Dave McNary (April 22, 2015). "Documentary ‘Unity’ Set for Aug. 12 Release with 100 Star Narrators". Variety. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  29. ^ Caroline Sullivan (August 19, 2005). "Just Dandy". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Music Videos", LaChapelleStudio.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hilka Sinning (2006). Eye Candy: The Crazy World of David LaChapelle. Medea Film.

External links[edit]