David LaChapelle: Land Scape

Usually known for his high-octane photographs of celebrities and fashion campaigns, one of David LaChapelle’s most recent projects, Land Scape, is a surprising turn for the acclaimed photographer.

LaChapelle has created miniature models of petrol garages and oil refineries from old food packaging, including beer cans, egg cartons, and tea canisters, to produce a striking commentary on our throw-away, consumer culture and our impact on the planet.

Having made a name for himself photographing the likes of Madonna, Eminem and Michael Jackson and iconic advertising campaigns in the 80s and 90s, LaChapelle decided to return to fine art photography in 2006. The 52-year-old American is known for creating work that has a shock factor, utilising surrealism and eroticism; with Land Scape, he has shown his range as an artist by creating powerful images again, but this time with a political message.

While the message may be different, stylistically, the work stays true to his love of neon and colour-saturated images. The models glow with a synthetic light, emphasising the jarring effect our energy needs have on the planet. While some of the models were shot in a studio, many were shot out on location in the Maui rainforest, along the Californian coastline and in the Californian desert. The juxtaposition between the man-made models and nature makes them even more poignant.

From a distance, the images could be mistaken for the real thing but look a little closer and you’ll notice the curling tongs used to represent a chimney, the drinking straws that pump out waste into the surrounding river and the pod-like beach balls used as the central domes of a power plant.

The models just go to show the huge number of everyday objects that contribute to our excessive consumption of oil. The miniature models are created in incredible detail, showing every pipe and tube, every petrol pump display and every lamplight, but with a closer look, you can see some imperfections and the materials that have been used to create them. LaChapelle commented that these observations are meant to, “represent the absurdity of our attempts to harness nature.”

The two-part series was exhibited at Robilant + Voena in London and Paul Kasmin gallery in New York, with each exhibition being turned into a book; both exhibitions received reviews full of praise from around the globe.