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David LaChapelle remembers his favorite Miami moments

Written by
Ryan Pfeffer

For the last decade, David LaChapelle has been purposefully removed from the fame he once held tightly, yet his name still swings heavy in the art world. So—though he says it’s “purely coincidental”—it is appropriate that the famed photographer is celebrating the release of two new books during the week of Art Basel Miami Beach. The new collections (broken into two thick books called Lost + Found and Good News) showcase previously unseen work from LaChapelle with subjects ranging from Tupac to Julian Assange. You can see LaChapelle and his new work during a book signing taking place this Friday, 6pm, at TASCHEN (RSVP here). We caught up with the artist to chat before he comes to town.

Do you have any favorite Art Basel memories—or perhaps just favorite Miami memories?

My first memory of Miami was being sent by Andy Warhol for Interview Magazine in 1987 to do a 30-page story in the Miami issue. Andy knew that Miami was going to be the next great city. This is when you could buy a deco hotel on Ocean Drive for 40,000 dollars. It was right before anything had really happened. I got to see the transformation from the Scarface era to the progression of more modern phases. Now with Art Basel, Miami has gone through a renaissance and become an art destination. I think this has been a positive thing for Miami. Before, Miami was known as a party city, but now it’s known as a major cultural city.

One of my favorite [Miami] memories was having a coffee at the Raleigh Hotel and meeting locals. Later that day, we had a book launch for my book Artists and Prostitutes in the back of the Raleigh. It was an amazing party that the New York Times mistook for performance art—it was just a party. The timing of my new book release is purely coincidental with Art Basel. This is the first city in the U.S. where we will do a signing at TASCHEN and then a talk at the Faena Forum, so it is a very special week.

Your new releases feature a good deal of famous faces. Why did you decide to include so many celebrities in these collections? 

In Lost + Found, I include many images of celebrities. They help to tell the narrative of the books and the diverse people who populate the world we live in—from politicians to freedom fighter to pop stars. These are all unpublished photos, and the book shows the two sides of fame—the surface glamour and the underside. There is a strong narrative throughout both books. They read from left to right like a manuscript. Lost+ Found is about the world we live in today. Good News shows where we can go.

Your subjects are eclectic. What qualities or characteristics must a person possess for you to consider devoting a good chunk of creative energy to them?

I have focused on fine art in the past ten years. I don't look to shoot celebrities as often, but I don't have a rule against it. If there is an artist or an interesting person—like Assange or Clinton—whose work moves me, or who has a story which I find interesting—I am excited to make an image.

Is there a specific photo from this latest collection you find yourself dwelling on more than others? Is there one that stays with you for any particular reason?

There are more than 500 images in the books, so it’s hard to answer. Good News includes my newest work, like the New World series. I am still working on this series and so I am very close to it. My new pictures explore the themes which I was interested in as a young photographer like the spiritual, the mystical and the metaphysical. 

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