Fashion photographer and music video director David LaChappelle is best known for glamorizing the underground in his work, legitimizing typically unheralded figures like transsexual plastic surgery aficionados and club kids and raising them to ghetto superstar status in his highly stylized shoots. In doing so he has maintained a keen eye on the streets that has served him well in his frenetically choreographed, giddily urban pop music videos for Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani. What is so refreshing about LaChappelle's documentary feature debut, Rize, is that the director skirts his instantly recognizable pop sheen in favor of a more organic approach to the nascent style of street performance known as krumping or clowning. Forged in the back yards, public parks, and playgrounds of working-class African-American neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles as a means of personal expression and symbolic escape, krumping comes across as a grass-roots amalgam of Busta Rhymes' epileptic stage presence, those bossy competitive dance-offs that have ruled youth culture from West Side Story to Britney and Justin and the break dancing that burst out of the South Bronx in the early days of hip-hop. In Rize, LaChappelle's young subjects seize and jerk with such exhilarating force that watching them becomes a sort of transcendence; if the original breakers popped and locked as a means of forging personal style in decaying urban wastelands, then krumpers and clowners vibrate like human jackhammers, performing a ritualized urban renewal using the ultimate in homegrown tools: themselves.
David LaChapelle is an acclaimed photographer, music video and commercial director and filmmaker. His first professional print job as a photographer came at the behest of Andy Warhol for Interview magazine. LaChapelle's bizarre and gorgeous images have appeared on the covers and inside the pages of Italian Vogue, Rolling Stone, i-D, Vibe, Interview, The Face, GQ, and Vanity Fair, a publication he's presently under contract to. His books include the best selling La Chapelle Land (Callaway, 1996), a celebrity picture tome that includes Madonna, Ewan McGregor, Uma Thurman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Barrymore and André 3000. LaChapelle has directed numerous music videos for popular music artists including Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Macy Gray, Blink 182, Elton John and Gwen Stefani. He's directed commercial campaigns for Nokia, XM Satellite Radio, and the ABC TV series, Desperate Housewives. LaChapelle's award-winning documentary short, Krumped, chronicles the same subject matter of his debut feature, Rize.