David LaChapelle made his fortune creating highly original, impactful celebrity portraits. In the last few years he has largely moved away from that world and started looking at the larger world in which we live. His newer works maintain the high impact cinematographic style for which he became well known. But the subject matter has changed. In his series Land Scape (above) he dramatizes in glorious technicolor the industrial landscapes that surround us. His claim is that he is not doing this to be critical but rather, in a dispassionate way, to show that this is simply how it is. The legacy of the industrialization on which we all have come to depend.
Similarly, he highlights our dependence on a fossil fuel powered society in his series titled “Oil”.
Yet other works convey a more critical stance. “Icarus” (below) suggests that humanity has fallen amid the ruins of a throwaway digital society.
Other series and images continue to take a more critical stance. “Black Friday at the Mall of the Apocalypse” suggests a destructive nature to the glamorous consumption culture in which he spent most of his life and which was the source of his not inconsiderable income for some decades.
His series “I always tell the truth even when I lie” takes a swipe at capitalism in a way that will have particular resonance for many in these days of banking scandals and a business world that has lost much of our society’s trust and respect. The series contain images with titles like “In this world you always got to make the money first” and “We are not winners, we are all losers.”
He even gets to our relationship with the natural world in the image titled “Gaia.”
All of which begs a number of questions. Is this an epiphany of someone who, having spent his life in the capitalist, consumerist world of celebrity culture, now sees the world differently? Or is is the hypocrisy of someone who has done so well, and continues to do well, from the capitalist consumer that his can now afford to be critical of the world that he profited from and continues to live in? Do these series and images cause people to reflect and change or do they simply continue to encourage the elitist, affluent, consumerist world of art critics and art collectors? These are questions that do not only apply to La Chapelle but to many of us.