If you are paging through Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, or Interview and are struck by a photograph that jumps off the page with electrifying colors, humor, and dynamic subjects, chances are the photographer is David LaChapelle--or someone consciously copying him. LaChapelle is arguably one of the most influential photographers working today; he has been recognized as Best New Photographer of the Year by French Photo and American Photo. Last year, VH-I bestowed upon him their coveted "Photographer of the Year" award
In the early 80’s, LaChapelle worked as a bus boy in New York's over-the-top celebrity hangout, Studio 54, where he witnessed first hand the devotion celebrities elicited. His photographic career began at Interview magazine under the tutelage of the magazine's founder, Andy Warhol. There, LaChapelle experienced total immersion in the life of glamour, becoming one of Interview's premier photographers.
LaChapelle shot mostly in black and white in the beginning, but he once told me he couldn’t take the posed black-and-white fashion aesthetic seriously anymore. His signature photography has become synonymous with wildly beautiful colorful sets, unexpected positioning of models and celebrities, all shot with subtle or overt humor. More than static portraits, his photos often appear as a still from a motion picture, with layers of plots ready to play out before our eyes.
It is only natural, then, that LaChapelle is making a move into video and film. The video "Natural Blues," with Moby, represents his most recent and successful effort. As Moby mentioned in our interview, though a huge fan of David’s, he was worried that given the brightness that typifies David’s work, David may not have been the right person to do the video for the subdued tones of "Natural Blues." However, David convinced Moby and his record company, V2, that he wanted to do something beautiful and earnest. The result is the most spiritual video to be in rotation on MTV in years.
Some people are offended when objects of devotion are depicted outside their traditional settings. Yet LaChapelle's photos tap into a truth about the American obsession with and devotion to celebrity by blending the sacred and the celebrated. When LaChapelle took his picture of Leonardo DiCaprio, there were thousands of girls who most likely would have chosen to meet Leonardo over meeting Jesus.
But I'd be wrong to say David himself is trying to make a point about anything. LaChapelle’s portraits with religious themes are often more whimsical than didactic, or even intellectual. Shock value isn't the goal. LaChapelle is guided by a sometimes mischievous muse, but not a malicious one. And in the "Natural Blues" video, he has created a work of religious art that transcends temporal glamour to attain true spiritual significance.
Moby said that the idea for the video "Natural Blues" was all yours, that basically he just showed up--
That's nice of him to say.
--that he just showed up and put on make up and that he is really happy with the results.
He's happy with it?
Yeah he is really happy with it.