David LaChapelle is an American photographer who’s split his time between commercial and fine-art. He’s also directed film and music video projects and worked as an artist. He is known for a style that focusses on hyper-realism and for subversive themes.
At age 17, LaChapelle met Andy Warhol. He was offered his first job as a photographer at Interview magazine. His work garnered a lot of attention and let to friendships with artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He soon was shooting for other magazines including Details, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Vogue Italia, and Vogue Paris.
His work has often been criticized as being style heavy and misogynistic. However he has also explored several themes that have had mixed appeal. He has cited an influence of Baroque painters on his work and critics have seen similarities to other painters. He’s also directed two films, the 2004 short documentary Krumped, and its followup, RIZE (2005).
One interesting controversy that photographers can learn from is how he protected the themes of some of his portraits. In 2011 he sued singer Rihanna and her label The Island Def Jam Music Group. He calmed that her music video for “S&M” had infringed upon eight of his photos by copying their “composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting.” The courts denied a dismissal of the case and the defendants’ claim of fair use. The case was settled out of court.
Whether you like his work or not, his use of composition and color are worth studying.
Here’s a short interview with the artist and photographer abut his process. This film is produced by Vice.
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