New York Observer June 21, 1999


During the early 1980's, when David LaChapelle was working as a busboy at Studio 54, he used to sneak into openings at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in SoHo to see his idols: Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat. On June 4, Mr. LaChapelle, who is one of the most successful photographers in the world, had his dream come true when the first show of his work opened at the Shafrazi Gallery on Wooster Street. Through Sept. 15, his photographs of Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Uma Thurman, Elton John and Cher, in surreal settings that would have pleased Magritte and Fellini, his two other idols, are on view in the gallery.

"How it happened is pretty amazing," said Mr. LaChapelle. "We were shooting Naomi Campbell for Playboy and she called up Tony and said, if you want to see me naked come over now, and he came over and we just started talking about pictures and the reasons I do them and stuff," said Mr. LaChapelle, 35, who still has the wide-eyed quality that led Andy Warhol to hire him to photograph for Interview when he was 18. "We talked for hours and hours and then he called me a few days later and said, I want to give you a show."

For the June 4 opening, Mr. LaChapelle created a spectacle that he thought would have amused Warhol. He convinced Amanda Lepore, a transsexual model he has used in his photographs, to come to the gallery naked. "She came with a suntan," Mr. LaChapelle explained. "She was wearing a tan line. That was her outfit. She had her body painted and where the bikini would have been was all white," said Mr. LaChapelle, who has a book coming out in October, Hotel LaChapelle, from Bulfinch Press-Callaway. "I love spectacle and outrageousness,"he said.

By Jeffrey Hogrefe

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