Pop Art + Ecology = David LaChapelle

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It’s a show about ecology – but not as we know it. Ashley Jouhar visits David LaChapelle’s recent show at Robilant + Voena in London.

Who?

Photographer David LaChapelle

What?

Exhibition and Book release of ‘Land Scape’ at Robilant + Voena, London, W1

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Decisive moment?

I saw the images making up this exhibition on-line to begin with and assumed they were LaChapelle’s take on environmental photography; oil refineries and power stations shot in pumped up pop art colours, saturated, rich and highly impactful. On arrival at the gallery, you’re immediately struck by the scale of the prints, by the physical impact of the image – some more than 4 metres wide. The main thing that struck me though was that all these images were not what they seemed. LaChapelle has cleverly subverted the traditional environmental photography of say, Ed Burtynsky and playing with scale, model-making and pop art colours he’s created a set of breathtakingly beautiful landscapes that would sit alongside Burtynsky’s images and complement them nicely.

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Trend?

Recycling and up-cycling are very much in the spotlight at the moment and these photographs are at the sharp end of this trend. The environment, how we preserve it, live in it and its future is a huge topic and challenge for all of us. How artists choose to show it is also a constant challenge. LaChapelle’s carefully constructed use of non-biodegradable detritus to subtly make his point about ecology, waste and sustainability was a real surprise. Building large models made from plastic measuring jugs, aerosols, drinking straws, hair curlers and drinks cans, amongst other items, LaChapelle and his model making team have made a political point in a typically glamorous way – but the strength of the images come from this unexpected treatment, using a visual language markedly different from those conventionally associated with environmentalism.image[6]

Art meets Commerce?

LaChapelle is no stranger to straddling these two areas with ease. According to an interview with ARTLYST, LaChapelle ‘admits using beauty as a powerful tool, to seduce his viewers and pass on his message. It is a message that he is deeply passionate about. Underneath it all, he is a sharp political advocate for environmental issues. LaChapelle in his unique and ingenious way has managed to present these images as both the gates of Disneyland – and the gates of Hell.’

Released in editions of three, each of these prints starts at an eye-watering $100,000 according to the girl at the gallery I asked!

One question for the image maker?

What next to be filtered through the LaChapelle candy coloured Kaleidoscope? The destruction of The Rainforest, Battery Farm Chickens or Global Warming?

For more info on David LaChappelle

For more info on Robilant + Voena in London 

To buy the catalogue click here 

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About Author

Ashley Jouhar is the Creative Director of Image Source. He has worked as a senior creative in the photography industry for over 12 years, previously as Deputy Director of Photography at Getty Images. He is also a photographer in his own right, shooting lifestyle, documentary and portraiture for a wide range of clients. Before turning to photography full time, Ashley worked as a senior Art Director and Group Head at McCann Erickson, London, creating award winning advertising for Bacardi, Shredded Wheat, Black & Decker, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Birds Eye, amongst others.

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