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Informing Contexts – Considering Other Photographers – David LaChapelle

During the module we have been looking at constructed images.  These images are fictional in that they are telling us a story – but they still portray real people. In my opinion, they are only fictional in the narrative of the image.


For example, David LaChapelle’s image “the Rape of Venus” is very obviously constructed to deliver a particular message.  I chose this image from LaChapelle’s many works as the symbolism in the image and the use of a constructed narrative interest me and is an area I am considering in my project.  And like LaChapelle, I am very influenced by paintings when creating my images.


Figure 1: David LaChapelle. The Rape of Africa. 2009


LaChapelle’s image is a modern re-creation of Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars.


Figure 2: Botticelli. Venus and Mars


LaChapelle’s image represents the effects of western culture and values on Africa.  He uses a black model to represent Africa and a white model to represent the western world.  His image depicts the conquest of Africa (represented by Naomi Campbell as Venus) and the mining of diamonds and gold. Mars is sleeping on his riches and in LaChapelle’s image this represents the greed and unethical practices of the western world.  He replaced the meadow of the Botticelli work with the diggers destroying the landscape.  One of the children carries a gun.


In his interview for The Guardian with Karin Andreasson (201), LaChapelle explains “The photograph, called The Rape of Africa, is a critique of consumerism, of a global society fuelled by greed and power. I made it right after the financial collapse, when we were being advised to invest in gold and gold production spiked tenfold. The irony is that by putting your money into a safer security like gold, you are ensuring more devastation, more climate change, more destruction in Mother Africa, where our species began.”.  LaChapelle is not trying to deceive us with his image, but is using it to highlight issues around the world and send a message to those responsible for the plundering of assets in Africa.  


The image is fiction only in it’s narrative.  The photograph is a representation of the scene in the studio.  LaChapelle explains in the same interview “People who see my work often become obsessed with the process. They assume it’s all done in post-production, but you can’t do this on Photoshop. I now document everything I work on, to show that everything is real and was there on the set. When you see this picture large, you can see every pore on Naomi’s skin. The mine was a model and photographed separately, so it could be in focus at the same time as the foreground – but it was all there.”.  The image is not a lie – everything in it is real, it is just fictional in its meaning.


The image itself is somewhat gaudy in appearance.  The models look flawless.  The image is glamorous, but the message still gets through.  The narrative of this and his other works, are telling us stories and communicating with us on a visual level.  The visual language used by LaChapelle is as strong, in my opinion, as the written word.  I am left in no doubt about the political statement LaChapelle is making.


Whether you like the work or not is irrelevant.  LaChapelle’s clever use of imagery will draw you in regardless.


REFERENCES

The Guardian. 2014. David LaChapelle’s best shot: Naomi Campbell and the rape of Africa | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/29/my-best-shot-david-lachapelle-rape-of-africa-naomi-campbell. [Accessed 05 February 2017].

Figure 1: LaChapelle, D. The Rape of Africa. 2009. From The Guardian. 2014. David LaChapelle’s best shot: Naomi Campbell and the rape of Africa | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/29/my-best-shot-david-lachapelle-rape-of-africa-naomi-campbell. [Accessed 05 February 2017].


Figure 2: Botticelli. Venus and Mars. From Italian Renaissance Art.com. 2017. Venus and Mars and playful satyrs. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.italian-renaissance-art.com/Venus-and-Mars.html. [Accessed 05 February 2017].


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