60 years of legend between glitter, sacredness and eros

It was 1991 when the New York Times wrote about David LaChapelle: «It will influence the work of a new generation to the same extent that Avedon was a pioneer of what is considered normal today». More than prophetic prediction since David LaChapelle, a 60 years striking on March 11, is now recognized and glittering icon of pop culturehimself a myth, creator of a new photographic language that blends eros, glitter, sacredness and mythology.

David LaChapelle

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/FFR/Getty Images for FFR

David LaChapelle on the runway at Naomi Campbell’s Fashion For Relief Haiti NYC 2010 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 12, 2010, New York City

LaChapelle painter of images

With the camera he paints pictures. Photography for David LaChapelle is turn your dreams into imagesthrough the use of imagination, as he himself said.

“I really like sensuality. I love the human body”

Here then is a young man Leonardo Dicaprio stretched out over a mound of fruit while holding three bananas; Eminem naked in a lively and radiant pose, contrary to his angry rapper figure, with a stick of dynamite on fire in front of his private parts; Madonna in mystical ecstasy. And then a Last Supper with a gaudy plastic tablecloth, beer bottles, tattoos and an Adidas sweatshirt; Jesus young hippie with on his knees the lifeless body of Michael Jackson; Mary Magdalene version Kim Kardashian weeping glitter. “I really like sensuality,” admitted LaChapelle. “I love the human body.”

David LaChapelle

Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Maybach

David LaChapelle at press conference presents “Bliss Amongst Chaos” at Raleigh Hotel, December 5, 2009, Miami Beach

master of pop surrealismDavid LaChapelle has created some of the most archetypal and unmistakable images of the last forty years, fusing spirituality and provocationfable and kitsch, between Botticelli and Michelangelo, between Salvador Dalí and Jeff Koons, between translucent colours, glossy images tending towards the hyperbolic, subjects of Christian culture reinterpreted with playfulness, vocation and blasphemy.

Enlightening was in its beginnings, at the beginning of the 80s, the encounter with Andy Warholso he started working as a photographer at theInterview Magazine. Escaping the bullying he suffered as a queer teenager in his native Connecticut, LaChapelle found his artistic path in New York.
Following in his mentor’s footsteps, he has built a career filled with expressive voracity, consumerism, celebrity, merging references and classic poses and symbols and impulses of contemporary bulimic society. With dazzling compositions from magazine to magazine, from advertisement to advertisement, you sculpted the pop culture of the late twentieth century.

David LaChapelle

Photo by Cindy Ord/FilmMagic

Detail of installation art at David LaChapelle’s “From Darkness To Light” exhibition, Lever House, June 2, 2011, New York City

Between queer messages and celebrities

In 1991, when LaChapelle was still little known, his photo for the Diesel campaign caused a sensation and history: two sailors from the crew of a US submarine celebrate the end of the Second World War by kissing. It was one of the first commercials with a gay couple kissing.

Carousels of stars were photographed by David LaChapelle, imaginative and sparkling: da Angelina Jolie to Benicio del Toro, from Marilyn Manson to Elizabeth Taylorfrom Valeria Marini to Björk, and then Whitney Houston, David Beckham, Uma Thurman, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Hillary ClintonLance Armstrong…
With LaChapelle, celebrity photography, initially conceived to illustrate fashion magazines, was fully recognized as an art form.

And then, in addition to photography, the direction of music videos, theatrical events and documentaries also arrived, always with his style of dazzling aesthetics of contrasts. So here he is, in an inevitable encounter of glittering icons, curating scenes and directing the Elton John show made for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2004: it was the highest-grossing show of the year in the City of Vice.

«Federico Fellini, Andy Warhol and Jesus. Everyone has changed my life in his own way »: said David LaChapelle, not surprisingly defined as the Fellini of photography.

Pamela Anderson and David LaChapelle

Photo by John Shearer/WireImage

Actress Pamela Anderson and photographer David LaChapelle pose for a portrait at the Annual Hollywood Style Awards, October 11, 2009, Los Angeles

The intimate retreat in Hawaii

Since 2006, the intimate and ecological turning point. David LaChapelle retired from the limelight to settle in Hawaii, where he re-founded a new, unhurried life away from the media industrial complex that he had defined his career. He reinvented himself as a farmer, set up a organic farm in Mauiin a secluded former nudist colony, in close contact with nature and without traces of modernity, without electricity but only solar and water.

«I love glamour, fashion and beauty. But I needed to get away”

«I love glamour, fashion and beauty. It is the sign of civilization », she explained. “But I needed to get away from the propaganda of it all.”
The celebrity industry? A place to not grow old, according to the photographer now zen. Happiness? Far from a flashy new purchase urged by an advertising image.

His search for a deeper and more pregnant existential experience has also been reflected in his more recent work. Here he is, then, lending his pop acid colors to exotic landscapes and figures that recall religious iconography, between apocalypse and paradise, as in his book Good News of 2017. Here are the portraits, taken in the 80s, ad friends who died of AIDS posing like angels, he who has always felt like a miracle worker for not being infected.
“I’m not trying to merchandise,” said the new LaChapelle. “I’m not trying to take pictures to please people. I’m trying to excite them.”

David LaChapelle

Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images

David LaChapelle signing copies of his books ‘Good News Part I’ and ‘Lost + Found Part II’, December 14, 2017, New York City

From this reflective turning point also comes the new photograph by David LaChapelle visible until November 23, 2023 in Brescia at the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo in the exhibition David LaChapelle for Giacomo Ceruti. Nomads in a Beautiful Land: the American photographer pays homage to the eighteenth-century Lombard painter who was able to portray the poor and humble classes. LaChapelle provides his own interpretation of marginality, in an ode to social decadence: in Gated Community, taken in Los Angeles in December 2022, shows a long row of tents, a shelter for the homeless, signed with fashion brands. Then there is the series next to it Jesus is my homeboy from 2003, six photographs that portray scenes from the life of Jesus reinterpreted in the anonymous setting of a contemporary metropolis.

“I’d rather die than be a serious artist and a fake artist.” Word of LaChapelle.

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