Earth Laughs in Flowers and Chapelle Takes Pictures

April 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

David LaChapelle, he of the ubiquitous muscled, airbrushed and hyper coloured perfection that defined much of his work, has bought us his first foray into fine art photography with an exhibition entitled “Earth Laughs in Flowers” which along with the photographs was inspired by the below poem Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
La Chapelles goal was to portray the fragility of humanity (isn’t it always?) and the transience of possessions. Not to meantion a look at some of the less appealing but no less dominant facets of society such as avarice and greed. He succeeds, the style reminiscent of the classic still lives of the old masters, but the subject matter is contemporary, the flowers wrapped in plastic or amidst piles of broke mobile phones, balloons, and other detritus. The food is wrapped in plastic, or shattered, and instead of the loaves of bread found in renaissance art, theres a slab of what looks like a supermarket chocolate cake.
Moot point, it’s pretty cool, and a whole lot smarter than I’m sure some critics would have expected. And despite the lack of babes in briefs (check out his fashion photography if you aren’t familiar with it and that will make sense) there is still plenty to like about it.
Hamatreya
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint,
Possessed the land which rendered to their toil
Hay, corn, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool, and wood.
Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm,
Saying, “’Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s.
How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees!
How graceful climb those shadows on my hill!
I fancy these pure waters and the flags
Know me, as does my dog: we sympathize;
And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.”
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds:
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough.
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
They added ridge to valley, brook to pond,
And sighed for all that bounded their domain;
“This suits me for a pasture; that’s my park;
We must have clay, lime, gravel, granite-ledge,
And misty lowland, where to go for peat.
The land is well,—lies fairly to the south.
’Tis good, when you have crossed the sea and back,
To find the sitfast acres where you left them.”
Ah! the hot owner sees not Death, who adds
Him to his land, a lump of mould the more.
Hear what the Earth say:—
                EARTH-SONG

          “Mine and yours;

          Mine, not yours.
          Earth endures;
          Stars abide—
          Shine down in the old sea;
          Old are the shores;
          But where are old men?
          I who have seen much,
          Such have I never seen.
          “The lawyer’s deed
          Ran sure,
          In tail,
          To them and to their heirs
          Who shall succeed,
          Without fail,
          Forevermore.
          “Here is the land,
          Shaggy with wood,
          With its old valley,
          Mound and flood.
          But the heritors?—
          Fled like the flood’s foam.
          The lawyer and the laws,
          And the kingdom,
          Clean swept herefrom.
          “They called me theirs,
          Who so controlled me;
          Yet every one
          Wished to stay, and is gone,
          How am I theirs,
          If they cannot hold me,
          But I hold them?”
When I heard the Earth-song
I was no longer brave;
My avarice cooled
Like lust in the chill of the grave.
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