British-born, New York-based photographer David LaChapelle is considered one of the pioneers of the “naked” movement. As a child, he was so obsessed with art and fashion that his mother discouraged him from attempting to draw or paint. LaChapelle started his professional career as a fashion illustrator before turning his attention to photography. “That’s how I started to do it [photography] – slowly,” he told BBC News. “As I got more talented, I wanted to do it less. So I made a conscious decision, ‘I don’t know how to do this – but it’s a craft to me,’” he said.
His portrait of Gosford Park (1955) director Kenneth Branagh caught the attention of filmmaker Steven Spielberg, with whom LaChapelle worked on a series of photographs for the movie “Sugarland Express” (1974). “I shot three pictures – and Steven liked them and asked if I’d do one again,” he said. Following that project, LaChapelle began to work with Spielberg on the “Jaws” series. “I began to work with Steven Spielberg, and as he knew me and liked what I was doing with my work, I was able to make myself available to him,” he said.
He credits a mix of “school politics, shyness, and just being a white kid with his collar up” for making him initially reluctant to take part in the shooting of the making of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982). However, Spielberg convinced him, and LaChapelle followed his advice. “He really pushed me to take part in that, and I went along with that whole project,” he said. “So it was kind of a rebirth for me in a way.”
LaChapelle is planning a tour with “Sugarland Express”, where he will be presenting the photographs and audio recordings he made on the project with the director and star as well as film makers such as Francis Ford Coppola and Terry Gilliam.