David LaChapelle | World-Renowned American Photographer

David LaChapelle (B. 1963) is an American photographer who has led an interesting life and even more fascinating career. He developed his skills in portrait photography and then expanded into videography when directing films and celebrity music videos. He is without a doubt a hugely successful artist who has achieved a considerable amount during his career. In this article, we will look at David LaChapelle’s personal life and his extensive career. 

david lachapelle

Who is David LaChapelle? 

As mentioned, David LaChapelle is an American photographer and director who specialises in portraits, fashion and art with a social message. His work has been featured in extensive commercial galleries and museums worldwide. LaChapelle has also held positions at different magazine and print publications throughout his career, contributing to his success. 

David LaChapelle Biography

LaChapelle had a difficult upbringing and continued to experience hardship and loss throughout his early adulthood. Nevertheless, he went to the North Carolina School of the Arts to continue his education in the field of art and photography. He knew that he loved the arts as a young child and was keen to participate in art programs during his school career. 

He has been open about suffering from bipolar disorder, a mental health disorder resulting in chronic manic or depressive episodes. Since his diagnosis, he is aware of how his mental illness can affect his work and relationships. 

As he grew up in the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s, he was bullied for his sexuality and ran away from home at the age of 15 to become a busboy in New York City. LaChapelle has gone on to say that his time spent in New York City influenced his life tremendously. 

After losing his boyfriend to AIDS in the 1980s, LaChapelle moved to London. During his time in London, LaChapelle was influenced by the culture and creativity of the city. 

LaChapelle has also lived in Los Angeles and Hawaii. While in Hawaii, an old friend asked him to shoot in a gallery. It was here that LaChapelle’s passion for art was reignited. He now refers to this experience as when he was reborn. 

David LaChapelle Photography Career

From a very young age, LaChapelle had always been interested in photography. He had run-ins with different celebrities, such as Andy Warhol when he was just 17-years-old, which helped skyrocket his career. He even got involved in some controversial art depicting LGBT+ couples. 

He has had many collections and exhibitions showcased around the world. David LaChapelle portraits can be seen throughout these museums and galleries, such as:

  • Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei
  • Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel
  • National Portrait Museum in London

You can see the full, exhaustive list of all the exhibitions LaChapelle has participated in on his website

LaChapelle is also well known for his other forms of art, including his book publications:

  • LaChapelle Land
  • Hotel LaChapelle
  • LaChapelle Lost and Found

You can purchase the aforementioned David LaChapelle work from LaChapelle’s bookstore, including signed copies of LaChapelle Land and Hotel LaChapelle. 

David LaChapelle Directing Career

Some of the movies he has produced have included ‘Krumped’, and ‘Unity.’ He has also done videography for movies such as Space Balls and musicians like Enrique Inglesies and Brittney Spears. 

David LaChapelle Artist Awards

David LaChapelle famous photos are displayed in exhibitions all over the world. He is well known for being an accomplished seminal photographer, and his work is highly valued by collectors. Therefore, it is not surprising that David has won many awards for his work. 

David LaChapelle’s awards include:

  • Artist of the Year, American Friends of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
  • National Geographic Photography Seminar, Featured Speaker
  • Best Documentary, Aspen Film Festival
  • Art Directors Club Award for Best Book Design for LaChapelle Land


Where was LaChapelle born?

David was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1963, just a few years after his mother arrived in the U.S. from Lithuania as a refugee. 

Who influenced LaChapelle’s work?

David’s two favourite artists were Andrea Pozzo and Caravaggio as they were both Baroque painters and had a unique styles. He also worked for Andy Warhol as a teenager, so it is likely that this experience has also shaped his career as an artist. 

Where did LaChapelle go to college?

David went to the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Where has LaChapelle’s work been featured?

The following publications have featured David LaChapelle photos:

  • GQ Magazine
  • The New York Times Magazine
  • Rolling Stones
  • Vanity Fair 
  • Vogue Paris
  • Vogue Italia

What is the most famous David LaChapelle photo? 

Unlike some photographers who seem to have instant or overnight success from a single photo or shoot, LaChapelle’s art has gradually become more well-recognised. He specialises in commercial fashion portraits but has also worked with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Amanda Lepore. He is also known for putting a humorous or provocative spin on his work. 

Does LaChapelle have a website?

Yes, David LaChapelle has a website where you can purchase his work or read more about where his art is featured in exhibitions. 


Photographer David LaChapelle has had a hugely successful career. He is well known for being an artist that incorporates social messages and art history into his work. For example, David has been part of two LGBTQ+ exhibitions during his long career. He has a unique sense of style and is mainly known for using hyperrealistic techniques. LaChapelle’s work can withstand time as he doesn’t hold back his artistic expression. Therefore, his work continually captivates his views long after the work is complete. 

If you are interested in viewing or purchasing some of LaChapelle’s work, keep an eye on our gallery updates at Imitate Modern.

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