David LaChapelle’s new series Land Scape is like an alternate reality in which Willy Wonka is in the business of petroleum rather than sweets. Just as there are disturbing undercurrents beneath the surface of Dahl’s candy-coloured world, so there are in the American photographer’s scenes; the meticulously constructed scale models, built from oil industry by-products, fizz and crackle with colourful energy while at the same time leaking a decidedly toxic quality from their sickly lighting and thick clouds of emissions.
The series is split into two parts. The amazingly detailed Refineries, photographed in the deserts and coastline of West Coast America, looks at the production stage of the oil business, with the factories’ magical sparkle failing to disguise the grim realities of our petrol dependence. In Gas Station, LaChapelle turns his attention to the pumps. Here his models are shot in the lush vegetation of Maui (Hawaii), with the organic material portrayed as both the source of fossil fuels and a menacing natural force which threatens to reclaim its territory, re-engulfing the man-made structures. Land Scape is being exhibited at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, from 30 October to 23 December.