For over a decade, I've held onto a particular copy of Life magazine. It's a issue from 1998, a Special featuring "The Best Magazine Photography of the Year." At the time of its purchase, I had gotten into Mr Nelson's coveted photography class and was considering becoming the next Annie Leibovitz. I quickly fell in love with W. Eugene Smith's miners, Man Ray's iconic eye, Eisenstaedt's celebrities, and Avedon's gowns.
Then I picked up this magazine. And discovered David LaChapelle. His photos were like nothing I had ever seen or even imagined. After weeks spent staring at black and white photography, the bright colors and fantastic scenarios were electrifying. Six of his images are featured, 2 spreads originally from Detour magazine, and one cinematic portrait of Alexander McQueen.
Next to these two images of Galliano's designs shot for Detour, it reads, "David LaChapelle took his first photo at age six. It was a portrait of his mother—wearing a Frederick's of Hollywood bra decorated with buckles and holding a cocktail on a balcony in Puerto Rico. He had found his calling. In the two photos here, as in much of his work, he seeks 'to escape into a naughty, decadent sort of lifestyle that no one's really allowed to live but,' he hopes, 'someone is living, somewhere in the world.' " (Life, Eisie Issue, Spring 1998, p. 141)
I was in awe. I had been clutching my Pentax k1000 waiting to see something magic and LaChapelle was out there creating magic. I looked at each of his photos for hours— it was like staring through the looking-glass.
His portrait of Alexander McQueen was the most amazing of all. Originally shot for Vanity Fair in March 1997, it was selected as Life's "Style Photo Winner." I learned from the caption that McQueen was "Britain's most radical fashion designer." In a voluminous ball gown and red rubber gloves that candy his arms, he wields a torch with natural ease while the wild-hatted Isabella Blow minds his train. I instantly believed that between collections he was living that naughty, decadent sort of lifestyle where one sets fire to medieval architecture if the mood strikes.
This season in Paris, McQueen's Spring 2010 collection marched down the runway, my jaw dropped, and LaChapelle's portrait immediately came to mind. I'm only posting a few images, but the entire collection is on Style.com, if you're curious. The unbridled creativity is inspiring. It's as if he's designing for another world, another time, and another species.
I hope someone is wearing this collection, somewhere in the world. And I hope that LaChapelle and his camera find them.
(Magazine photos © Littlehouse of Style, Alexander McQueen runway shots from Style.com)