“Saying God, Make Me Famous”: David LaChapelle’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow Review
We often use “glamor” to speak of Hollywood glitz and fame. The original verb, “glamour,” came from Scotland, where it meant to specifically cast a spell that made something appear beautiful so it can trap and ensnare mortals. Glamour was not simply beauty, it was a dangerous beauty, one too potent and stunning for the unwary eye. Referring to actors and models instead of Faerie Queens when we speak of glamor makes this image no less dangerous.
Walking through the white halls of the Staley-Wise Gallery, it’s easy to see how photographer David LaChapelle’s work is built upon this same idea of glamour and has defined the image of The Celebrity over the past three decades. Filled with 36 of his photographs, including multiple previously unexhibited portraitures by the student of Andy Warhol, the exhibit Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow at the Staley-Wise Gallery is a deep meditation on fame, desire, redemption, faith, and vulnerability.
Like much of his most prominent work, the portraits of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow embody the imagery of celebrity figure pushed to its most extreme. LaChapelle frames musicians, actors, politicians, and models amongst the symbols of excess strewn about like debris. The blaring pinks, greens, and blues combine with the intensely sharp focus of the camera to mimic the terrifying effects of manic fever dreams. The surreal dreamscape of the images oozes sex, faded revelry, and the pinnacle of social capital. The aesthetic screams out, “This is glory! This is passion! This is success!”
But there’s more to these images than just pop-culture agglomeration and debauchery. While LaChapelle’s images clearly show both his own and most cultures’ fascination with fame, this fascination is not a simple celebration of the glamour. When considered all together, the bright lights and the chaos of the portraits becomes deeply incongruous with the subtle Catholic iconography hidden within several of the images. These objects and poses of religious significance, while still small and often tucked away, still manage to overpower the excess of the rest of the image, and create a powerful echo of a longing for something more than just more glitz and glam. It is at this point that Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow becomes something more than a hollow reincarnation of celebrated excess.
The celebrities within Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow are clearly not saints, even when they are pictured with angel wings and crowns of thorns, but LaChapelle’s camera grants them a subtle spark of the human element that stands out from the seductive excess of being a celebrity. This spark of humanity lies at the intersection of personhood and the iconic; caught between who they are, who they want to be, and what the audience wants them to be.
Here, the nakedness and vulnerability of the celebrity becomes something not sexual, but something that is intensely vulnerable in its grasping for humanity. This search for humanity– as discursive, chaotic, and surreal as it is, makes these photos so moving, and elevates them into art that will stay with the viewer for years to come.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow will be at Staley-Wise Gallery until March 2nd, 2019.
Staley-Wise Gallery, 100 Crosby St #305, New York, NY 10012. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m, on Tuesday through Saturday.
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