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 53)
Hartford, Connecticut
United States
Occupation Commercial photographer, fine-art photographer, music video director, film director, artist
Website lachapellestudio.com

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 United States, 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 celebrities such as; 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]

In a New York Times article by Amy M. Spindler, photographer Richard Avedon states "of all the photographers inventing surreal images. It was Mr. LaChapelle who has the potential to be the genre's Magritte."[26] Helmut Newton has also contributed to the discourse on LaChapelle, stating in a NYT article by Cathy Horyn "He [LaChapelle] isn't very impressed by current photography. 'There's a lot of pornographic pictures taken by the young today...A lot of the nudity is gratuitous. But someone who makes me laugh is David LaChapelle. I think he is very bright, very funny, and good'".[27]

Personal life[edit]

His father was Philip LaChapelle and his mother is Helga LaChapelle; he has a sister Sonja and a brother Philip.[28] 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." [29]

Works and awards[edit]


Selected books[edit]

  • LaChapelle Land (New York: Simon & Schuster, in association with Callaway, 1996) - ISBN 0684833026
  • David LaChapelle Exhibition (Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1999)
  • Hotel LaChapelle (Boston: Little, Brown, 1999) - ISBN 0821226363
  • David LaChapelle, Barbican Gallery (Barbican, 2002) ISBN 978-390-12471-1-8
  • David LaChapelle, If You Want Reality, Take the Bus (Artmosphere, 2003)
  • 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
  • David LaChapelle (Maurani & Noirhomme, 2006)
  • 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: Jesus is My Homeboy (Robilant & Voena, 2008)
  • David LaChapelle: the Rape of Africa (Amsterdam: Reflex, 2009) - ISBN 9789071848070
  • David LaChapelle, Delirios de Razon (212 Production, 2009) ISBN 9786079530006
  • David LaChapelle, Moca Taipei Catalogue (Pascal de Sarthe & Fred Torres Collaborations for Taipei Culture Foundation/Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, 2010) ISBN 9789868529472
  • Taschen 30th Anniversary: Golden Book of the Year (Köln: Taschen, 2010) ISBN 9783836522847
  • David LaChapelle: Bliss Amongst Chaos (Fred Torres Collaborations, 2010) ISBN 9780615382043
  • David LaChapelle, Maybach: Going Places (Daimler AG, 2010)
  • Borders and Frontiers (Oakland University Art Gallery, 2011)
  • David LaChapelle, Earth Laughs in Flowers (Distanz Verlag, 2011) ISBN 9783942405294
  • David LaChapelle: Lost and Found (Pavleye Art and Culture, 2011) ISBN 9788090500600
  • Nosotros: La Humanidad Al Borde (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, 2011) ISBN 9781881723066
  • Thus Spoke LaChapelle (Arbor vitae, Revnice, and Pavleye Art & Culture, 2011) ISBN 9788087164860
  • LaChapelle: Exhibition at Robilant & Voena, London (Robilant & Voena, 2012) ISBN 9780956365064
  • David LaChapelle: Earth Laughs in Flowers (Fred Torres Collaboration, 2012)
  • David LaChapelle: In Seoul (Fred Torres Collaborations and de Sarthe Gallery, 2012)
  • Burning Beauty (BankerWessel, Elanders Faith & Hassler, and Fotografiska) ISBN 9789186741020
  • Still Life (Galerie Daniel Templon and Communic'Art, 2013) ISBN 9782917515129
  • Land Scape: At Paul Kasmin Gallery (Damiani, 2013) ISBN 9788862083317
  • David LaChapelle, Land Scape: At Robilant & Voena (Pure Print, 2014) ISBN 9780957428423
  • Once in the Garden at OstLicht: Galerie fur Fotografie, (Brandstatter Verlag, 2014) ISBN 9783850338257
  • David LaChapelle: Fotografia1s, (Tarea Asociacion Gradica Educativa, 2015) ISBN 9786124657320
  • David LaChapelle: Dopo il Dilulvio, (Giunti Arte Mostre Musei, 2015) ISBN 9788809816077
  • Botticelli Reimagined (Harry N. Abrams, 2016) ISBN 9781851778706


  • Best "Cutting Edge Essay" and "Style Photography" at Life magazine's Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Magazine Photography (the Eisies)[31]
  • Young Photographers Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award[32]




  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. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/17/style/making-the-camera-lie-digitally-and-often.html?pagewanted=all.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/16/style/helmut-newton-s-new-book-with-its-own-coffee-table.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "LaChapelle, Philip (obituary)". Hartford Courant. September 23, 2002. Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  29. ^ Ong, Iliyas. "Interview: David LaChapelle and His Return to Art". Design Taxi. 
  30. ^ Dave McNary (April 22, 2015). "Documentary 'Unity' Set for Aug. 12 Release with 100 Star Narrators". Variety. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  31. ^ "Third Annual Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Magazine Photography Competition Opens | Time Warner Inc.". www.timewarner.com. Retrieved 2016-07-25. 
  32. ^ "Join YPA for our November 2014 Fundraising Gala – Young Photographers Alliance". youngphotographersalliance.org. Retrieved 2016-07-25. 
  33. ^ Caroline Sullivan (August 19, 2005). "Just Dandy". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  34. ^ 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]