BOOKS FROM THE TOP SHELF IV – LaChapelle, Heaven to Hell

It’s been a while since I posted something for this series, so I turned to my bookshelf and a David LaChapelle tome that I’ve had for a couple of years, Heaven to Hell. It’s the third part of Taschen’s trilogy chronicling the photographer’s colour-drenched, totally nuts work. It’s one of my prize possessions, obviously, so I thought I’d give it a quick write-up. Here we go:

When I first got hold of Heaven to Hell it left me with some burning questions, like why have I never heard of this Ryan Phillippe guy before? Is Courtney Love ever not naked? and why is a fat lady in a pig costume beating up Pamela Anderson? These days it reminds me that no amount of plastic surgery is too much plastic surgery, everybody should be a little more like Amanda Lepore, and you just can’t have enough clashing colours in one photo EVER. It’s family fun for all occasions, and with my journalist hat on I’d say that it’s a razor-sharp critique-come-caricature of Hollywood culture, but I’m wearing my blogging-to-cure-boredom hat right now, so forget that part.

When I transfered these photos onto my laptop I thought ‘shit, I better take them again, in focus this time’, but fuck that, because you should all buy the book and see how amazing it is in person. There’s so much photographical meat to sink your teeth into. It’s the visual equivalent of eating a super-sized big mac meal with gold leaf on the bread and viagra in the coke, whilst naked and listening to a Crystal Castles remix of this. Don’t try and tell me you don’t want to do that.


Just in case you want to get all serious about this, here’s the introduction found on the inside of the cover sleeve:

“David Lachapelle. Controversial. Explosive. Thought-provoking. Arguably the world’s most famous living photographer, he has been breaking all the rules for over twenty years. ‘LaChapelle Heaven to Hell’ is the last chapter in a trilogy that started with the New York Times best-seller ‘LaChapelle Land’ (1996) and continued with ‘Hotel LaChapelle’ (1999), one of the most sought after and collected photography books of all time.

Celebrated as the Fellini of photography, LaChapelle has photographed personalities as diverse as Tupac Shakur, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Amanda Lepore, Lance Armstrong, Eminem, Pamela Anderson, Elizabeth Taylor, David Beckham, Lil’ Kim, Hilary Clinton, Philip Johnson, Paris Hilton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Uma Thurman, Kanye West, and Britney Spears, to name just a few.

While referencing and acknowledging such diverse sources as Renaissance art, cinema, the Bible, pornography, and the new globalized pop culture, LaChapelle has fashioned a deeply personal and epoch-defining visual language that holds a mirror to the face of our times, reflecting back both the sacred and the profane.”

Thanks for that, Taschen. You’ve saved me a lot of unnecessary paraphrasing.

The moral of the story is that Dave LaChapelle is pretty much god if you’re in the right mood for his ultra-confrontational style. Now, who better to sing me out than one of his leading ladies? (Okay, so this might be an excuse for another gratuitous dose of Courtney Love, but who’s going to stop me?).

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