Refinery Kitsch: David LaChapelle’s “Land Scape” Photography
by Christina Badal
Artist David LaChapelle tackled fossil fuels in his 2013 photo series “Land Scape,” which captured models of oil refineries assembled from cheap, mass produced found objects. Applying the flashy pop aesthetic and intricate staging he had become known for in his fashion and celebrity photographs, LaChapelle created garish and otherworldly portraits of industrial production.
Carefully assembled by professional Hollywood model-builders and lit by hundreds of LEDs, the refineries appear to be real at first glance. Yet a closer look reveals that storage spheres are medicine balls, pipes are straws and hair curlers, and smokestacks are painted Pringles cans. These items, of course, are derived from petroleum by-products, a reminder of the scope of our reliance on fossil fuels. The dazzling, retro-futuristic industrial aesthetic LaChapelle creates, evocative of the lurid sheen of Hollywood celebrity, speaks to both the power and profligacy of the fossil fuels industries.