David LaChapelle (born March 11, 1963) is an American commercial photographer, fine-art photographer, music video director, and film director.
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”. Once called the Fellini of photography, LaChapelle has worked for international publications and has had his work exhibited in commercial galleries and institutions around the world.
David LaChapelle was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Philip and Helga LaChapelle; he has a sister Sonja and a brother Philip. His family lived in Hartford until he was nine years old. 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. Then he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina with his family, where they lived until he was fourteen, before moving back to Fairfield, Connecticut. 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.
His first photograph was of his mother Helga on a family vacation in Puerto Rico. LaChapelle credits his mother for influencing his art direction in the way she set up scenes for family photos in his youth.
LaChapelle is bi-polar, but as he considers drugs to not work for him, he is careful to monitor his mental health. In the mid-1980s, LaChapelle lost his then boyfriend to AIDS. He fled to London, where that city’s counterculture proved enormously influential in forming his aesthetic. “I thought I’d seen it all. When I went to London, the level of creativity and insanity … they were on a whole other planet.” He was particularly struck by that culture’s insistence on originality, rather than copying. For him, Los Angeles had been “the literal opposite”. While living in London, he married the female publicist of the UK popstar Marilyn and the marriage lasted a year.
In 2006, LaChapelle abruptly quit Los Angeles. 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.”
- 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
- Lost + Found Part I. Taschen, 2017.
- Good News Part II. Taschen, 2017.