When asked to contribute to The Washington Post Magazine's spring luxury issue, renowned art and celebrity photographer David LaChapelle proposed a photo essay about the concept of luxury that was not focused on material things. He was inspired in part by the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he has lived for a little more than a decade. "This is true luxury — fresh air and clean water," he said in a phone interview, referring to his "off the grid" home there. He had friends already visiting and asked them to model. And the locations are some of his favorite sites on the island. He was also inspired by what he sees as a loss of balance in our relationship to materialism.
“Remember the big scandal with Imelda Marcos having 3,000 pairs of shoes?” he said, referring to the wife of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. “Now, people are showing off their gigantic apartment-sized closets full of shoes and purse rooms, with each purse and shoe highlighted as an art piece. In the ’80s it was a scandal; now it’s something we aspire to.”
He does not begrudge anyone their Supreme hat or Thom Browne suit, though. “It is a sign of civilization to beautify oneself. It’s a concept that has been with us forever,” he said, citing the elaborate hair and makeup of the Egyptians and the Mayans. “The problem is when we put all of that into materialism itself and leave room for nothing beyond that. You find a certain sadness sets in. It lacks an uplifting quality after a while.”
To distill all those sentiments visually, he created images that revel in the natural beauty of their settings and evoke great paintings such as Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream.” They also share with his other work religious undercurrents that he said are “part of my DNA as an artist.” He doesn’t mean to suggest that spirituality is somehow a luxury, but rather to convey “the idea of gratitude and unity and of love for mankind and love for the Earth.”
About this Story
Photo Editing by Dudley M. Brooks. Design by Audrey Valbuena.