Natalie Lowe

How LaChapelle drew me into the world of advertising and design

As a kid I loved looking at the photos, pictures and glossy spreads in magazines. I was always asking myself ‘how did they do that?’ or ‘I wonder what went on behind the scenes of that’.

On my 10th birthday I begged my parents for a Polaroid camera. I was an impatient child so loved being able to instantly take photos really appealed. My fascination with photography and art continued into my teens and I was soon studying both subjects at college. But it wasn’t until I started a design degree at University that I started to fully appreciate the talent and skill that goes into the polished, glossy images being produced by the likes of Mario Testino.
During the many long nights spent sat in the library, I discovered the work of David LaChapelle. The playful, fun, colour filled images of his books ‘Hotel LaChapelle’ and ‘LaChapelle Land’ kept me entertained for hours sat in that quiet, dull library, and they soon became my first port of call for inspiration and ideas.

The infamous ‘kissing sailors’ Diesel ad he created in 1995 caused more than a little controversy but continued to fuel my interest in design and advertising.

I loved how his work had a sense of humour, was sometimes a little controversial (I’m thinking the “Kissing Sailors” ad for Diesel), and often had a political message. But most of all I was drawn to the colour and vibrancy in his photographs – actually, my love of colour can’t have changed that much judging by the questionable neon jumpers currently hanging in my wardrobe!

Often described as shocking and surreal, LaChapelle’s work is big on surprises and tongue in cheek humour. So in a big class of eager design students, when it was tough coming up with that one idea that would surprise, turn heads and make people think, I would often turn to my favourite photographer for inspiration.

My 2nd year ‘Inspired’ show raised a few eyebrows when I turned a classroom into a hotel room complete with scantily clad friends, all in honour of LaChapelle. He really inspired me to have fun with design, and not worry so much what others were doing or thinking. I guess this is something I have continued to draw upon working in the advertising industry for the past 8 years.

And whilst I haven’t gone on to photograph beautiful celebrities in outrageous settings, I do like to work in a creative, challenging environment where new ideas are welcomed, however odd, outrageous or shocking they might first sound.