Peter Elfert for SALON, n°72
Large French windows, Art Nouveau buildings lined up like a string of pearls and you have the impression that you could discover valuable Flemish tapestries in the cool light of every elegant flat. Realty is different, though. Traffic, police, shouts and innumerable posters. Strike in the capital of the European Union. We have a date for an interview with one of the most successful international photographers in the world and are already running late. At the end of the street, the wonderful Avenue Louise provides for reconciliation. We stop outside the modern Maruani Mercier gallery and meet ingenious artist David LaChapelle.
PE — How did you experience art in your youth?
DLC — More than anything, my first memories were with my mother, before I went to school. My mother was an artist, but she couldn’t make a life for herself as an artist, so she always had jobs in factories or waitressing. She was a World War II refugee and wasn’t given the privileges of a young American when she arrived on the boat at Ellis Island. Nature was important to my family and we never sat in front of the TV set. I would always want pencils and crayons to draw and she would show me how to draw things. She surely had the greatest influence on me as an artist and I got interested in the Old Masters of the Renaissance, particularly Michelangelo when I was at school.
PE — Where did you encounter works by Michelangelo for the first time? At a museum?
DLC — It wasn’t a museum; it was a book. There was a periodical called Horizon, which was a really cool art magazine with a lot of art articles. I also always looked through the encyclopaedia. That’s where I fell in love with Michelangelo. It was the Dying Slave. Back then, I drew and painted constantly and always knew that I was going to be an artist.