Like, WOW, huh? Liz just posted this in the comments for that Guitar Hero story. I don’t know what to say. It’s pretty awesome. Luke Turner called it “bracing.” That too.
Howsabout we let the guy responsible, Sir David LaChapelle explain what the fuck was going through his amazing brain?
It started with “LaChapelle Land”, then “Hotel LaChapelle” and Now “Heaven to Hell”. The title is a little more obvious than my last books. We are given Heaven and we turn it into Hell. You can create Heaven and Hell as an artist, you can choose what it is you want to create and do it. The concept for this cover photograph came about because I love Michelangelo. Many artists throughout history have depicted the Pieta. In fact it is the most famous death scene in the history of art. I was thinking about Michelangelo’s pieta and how beautiful it was. I was thinking about this specific death scene that has been painted, carved from stone, and celebrated over and over throughout the centuries. I thought about how many people have mourned with, and felt empathy for this woman. Then I started thinking about the other deaths, the smaller deaths. I started to think about my friend Brett. Brett was a bicycle messager I met in the mid 80′s. He was delivering a package to the Interview Magazine offices while I was casting for a shoot. When I saw him I thought he was a model there for the casting, when in fact he was just delivering a package. I asked him if he would be in my photo shoot and he agreed. We did many photos together and we became close. We even tried to be boyfriends for a while but he was straight, so we wound up just being good friends.
Brett had a problem with heroin and even with the little money I had, I would try to help him. I would give him $200 or $400 to go and try to get away and get clean. He tried to go to rehab in Key West once, then he went to San Francisco, but he couldn’t seem to kick heroin. We had been out of touch for six months, when one day I got a call from a woman who was crying hysterically saying Brett had just died in her apt. She had said she never knew that Bret was a junkie and now she was pregnant with his child. She was crying so hard I could barely understand her. I said I could call the police for her and she said she had done that and called me right after because Brett had talked about me all the time. This phone call and mental image stayed in my head and has haunted me forever. I just imagined this poor girl sitting there in her shitty apartment holding the dead body of beautiful Brett. This was one of the deaths that I wanted to portray on the cover of my book. I was thinking about Brett dying in this lonely apt. I was thinking about all of the small deaths that happen everyday even as I am writing this down; people dying alone or with just one person there for them. All the small pietas happening all around the globe, on battle field, lonely apartments and old age homes. I wanted to do a picture that could be Mary mother of god or Mary the hooker from 3rd avenue and her junkie boyfriend, or it could be my friend Brett, or even something else. On the shoot that “something else” was Courtney and Kurt. Neither Courtney nor I planned that. I asked Courtney to do this picture because I ask most of my friends to be in my pictures. Most of my pictures that are not of celebrities are just people that are around and in my life. Courtney and I have been hanging out for a long time. I had just photographed Kanye West as black Jesus. It turned out to be a big controversy. That Rolling Stone magazine cover was all over CNN because the Catholic league was angry with a “black Jesus” or a “rapper Jesus”. I wanted to do something different with this picture so I did Anglo Jesus. The day of the shoot I decided to bleach my boyfriend at the time, Walker’s hair blonde. When Walker came onto the set and laid down on Courtney, I could tell she felt uncomfortable, and I said to her, “we don’t have to do this if you feel uncomfortable”. Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah was playing in the background and I said, “Courtney, we can stop right now if it makes you feel uncomfortable with anything”.
I know how much she loves Kurt regardless of what anyone says. I’ve been with Courtney at times when she completely lost it, and just moaned about him. I’ve felt that sadness too so I know it is authentic. I have been through the same feelings, I know when it is real. When you loose someone the feelings just lingers and comes back at the weirdest times when you least expect it. I know that Kurt loved Courtney as well. Why would he go on TV in England and announce that she is the “best fuck in the world”, and have a child with her, write music about her, marry her and stay with her, if he didn’t love her. He was a rock star and he could do whatever he wanted. To some of the letters that I am getting saying Courtney killed Kurt is ridiculous. Your saying that Kurt was such a weakling that he allowed himself to be manipulated and somehow rubbed out by this woman, I don’t think so. I don’t think Kurt was that weak. I think Kurt was a decisive strong individual. And I think that some people are in so much pain in this world that they have to leave it. I just think that its especially tragic today when there are so many resources, and medications to help bring people out of that pain and depression and hopeless feeling, but ultimately..no one can ever truly understand another person’s pain until he has walked in that person’s shoes.
The day of the shoot we bleached Walkers hair. Believe me if I wanted Walker to look like Kurt Cobain, it would have been Kurt Cobain to a tee. If Courtney and I had decided we were going to make Kurt Cobain it would be easy, go look how I made Justin Timberlake resemble a young Elton John in the “This Train Don’t Stop” video. Just because this guy was blonde didn’t mean he was Kurt Cobain. Kurt didn’t own blonde hair He owned a lot of things, just not blonde hair. Those people saying that Courtney is cashing in on Kurt’s death are ridiculous. Courtney has one of the best rock albums any female recording artist has ever made, and that’s called “Live Through This”. I don’t think Kurt would have been with an idiot. I don’t think Kurt would have been with a girl who needed him to write her songs. I think that Kurt was into Courtney because she had her own ideas. And the thing about Courtney Love is that she is one of the most referenced, smart, and charismatic women I have ever met. She lights up the fucking room. I was at a party with Elizabeth Taylor and Donatella Versace, and countless other celebrities and the only person anyone was looking at was Courtney.
She is just so smart and so funny. And that why talented guys like her. Talent likes talent, creative likes creative and genius likes genius. And to settle for anything less is to set yourself up for boredom. We all noticed Walker’s resemblance to Kurt on the set, but that stuff tends happens at my shoots. It is something that I’m ok with. It’s something that adds layers, depth to photographs. I loved Kurt, I love Courtney and I love this photo. This is one of my favorite photographs I have ever made. In fact it is my favorite, but for me, it will always be Brett’s image I see in my Pieta.