A parade of romantic extremes
LaChapelle often manages that with a combination of visual fantasy and a parade of romantic extremes; the paradise along with the hell, showing us something about his celebrity victims, and possibly about us, that we all hoped would never be noticed.
There’s not much gritty black-and-white realism here, the stock-in-trade of many art-photographers. His stagey sets and odd juxtapositions of humans, objects and animals, especially when most detailed, always look artfully contrived, dream-like. It’s make-believe for real. Pop-idol, sex goddess, movie star, hot-gospeller: they all end up as LaChapelles.
This work, in spite of its occasionally dark stance on various social and sexual minorities, is not photo-journalism, it’s not about lofty aesthetic statements either, though LaChapelle produces some dazzling colour for his subjects. It’s theatre. And it’s here that light, the silent artist in all fine photography, makes its contribution. Some 19th-century photographers copied narrative painters who gave their seductive figures harems and boudoirs to play in. On the other hand, painters like Degas at the same time only adopted photography as a useful resource. LaChapelle is firmly among the story-tellers.