Flashes of Brilliance

David LaChapelle's Most Eye-Grabbing Moments

For American Jesus, his first gallery show in New York in two years, photographer David LaChapelle assembled a series of his arch icons featuring Michael Jackson as martyr, saint and savior, as well as recent work including The Rape of Africa, featuring Naomi Campbell. On full display throughout the show is the artist’s signature flair, developed while working as one of the most sought-after fashion photographers of his generation, full of camp, charm and an insane amount of set-design. A great LaChapelle image manages at one time to be both a glorious idealization and smirking send-up of it subject matter. We took a look back into his archives and picked out our favorites from his storied career:
Tupac in the tub
Super sudsy and sexy as hell—Makaveli becomes the outright embodiment of Eros, in an early 90s way.
Lil Kim the copper
Though he famously collaborated with the Notorious K.I.M., catching her in nothing but LV print, this lets the hellraiser off the chain.
Medieval McQueen
With the whole Empire burning down behind him in the form of a castle turret, the late designer carries the torch, leading us all to a new frontier.
• The incredibly eerie Nip/Tuck ads
Women are cut-and-paste sculptures and the doctors are weird scientists. These images show straight away the succinctness of LaChapelle’s vision, and how adept he is at dreamy storytelling. See also: Desperate House wives, the posters.
• Christina Aguilera does a little “Dirty
Regularly voted among the sexiest music videos of all time, the promo for this little ditty, directed by LaChapelle, still turns teen boys the world over into stuttering Beavises and Buttheads.
LaChapelle’s documentary about a group of krump dancers in South Central LA is not only incredible Technicolor pop art—the dancers, shimmering with iridescent sweat, pop off the screen like superheroes—but it might be the best dance film ever.

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