THE BAD BOY PHOTOGRAPHER HAS A KNACK FOR PUSHING BUTTONS
Wanna see pictures of trannies getting silicone injections? Flowers sprouting out of bodybuilders' butts? Pamela Anderson dead in the street? Yep, we thought so-and those images are just a few of the jolts provided by the freak show that is Hotel LaChapelle, an extravagantly produced new collection of celebrity and fashion photographs from the twisted mind of David LaChapelle. Immediately recognizable from their often epic sets, luridly saturated colors, and computer-altered realities (a fact that famously infuriated an unwitting Mira Sorvino), LaChapelle's funhouse photos have been published in glossies the world over, been seen in numerous ad campaigns (like the Diesel opus that featured lip-locked sailors), won truckloads of awards, and even gotten the 35-year-old photographer dubbed "the genre's Magritte" by Richard Avedon. So what are you waiting for? It's check-in time.
OUT: OK, freak, let's get into your head. How do you get an assignment to shoot, say, Pam Anderson, and then decide, Hey, I'm gonna style it like she's been hit by a car and had her wig knocked off?
DAVID LACHAPELLE: I always want my subjects to be beautiful, bigger-than-Iife icons. Movie stars, you know? But we're in a different world now, and that world's not so pretty. So with anybody I shoot I think about what they've done. And look at the life Pam Anderson leads: It's crazy and scandalous and, just like you can't take your eyes off a car wreck, you can't take your eyes off her. So, in the picture, maybe she got hit by a car and her wig fell off, but, hey, her body's slammin' and her face looks gorgeous. It's a beautiful car wreck.
OUT: Define "beautiful."
LACHAPELLE: Dark things and scary things.
OUT: So you must find your friend [society maven and plastic surgery masterpiece] Jocelyn Wildenstein positively ravishing.
LACHAPELLE: She's really beautiful. She doesn't look like anybody else on the planet. But she's a multi-¬multi-multi-millionnairess and that changes how you live and who you are.
OUT: Back to you. How do you get someone like the nurse who injects [transsexual diva] Amanda Lepore to agree to be photographed?
LACHAPELLE, [Smiles knowingly.] I just bought her. Everybody wants to be a model.
OUT: Does that amuse you?
LACHAPELLE: Yeah, I've always loved the fact that a camera can make people do anything and everything. I love working with exhibitionism. Like, Pam's an exhi¬bitionist, a modern-day pinup, and she knows it and doesn't have any hang-ups about it. At the shoot she was completely naked, and the entire crew was gawking at her. I mean, one guy was so obviously staring at her twat that I had to say, "Could you please not stare at her pussy hole while we're shooting?" But Pam was cool and didn't embarrass anybody.
OUT: Sweet. But I bet they're not all like that.
LACHAPELLE: Well, it's not like the old days when you had Marilyn Monroe come to your studio, get drunk on champagne, take her clothes off, spin around in veils and pearls, fuck you, fall asleep, then wake up and do it again. But she was confident enough to do that when she went to that shoot alone with Bert Stern. Now that's impossible-you'd have a publicist in the room who'd be, like, "Stop, Marilyn! Your nipple's showing!"
OUT: It doesn't seem like you have a whole lot of trouble in that area. I mean, that's quite a shot of Rose Mc¬Gowan on the gynecologist's table, hoisting her skirt up.
LACHAPELLE: [Laughs.] When I got that assignment I was like, Great, she goes out with Marilyn Manson, she went naked to the MTV Awards ... she'll be up for anything!" So I decided I wanted to shoot her reclaim¬ing the gynecologist's office as an erotic experience rather than, like, a painful thing.
OUT: ... I see. [Pause.] As a child growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, did you have similar, um, quirky visions?
LACHAPELLE: Oh, yeah. I'd take the train into New York and see all these old tenement buildings with the windows smashed out, and I'd fantasize about all this erotic stuff going on inside, like people having sex and stuff. I love sex. So I used to fantasize about doing nude photos of girls in all the windows.
OUT: And now you do. Last question: You said, "Every¬body wants to be a model.” Does that include you?
LACHAPELLE: I am a model, baby.
By Brantley Bardin