Newswise — (WINSTON-SALEM) An alumnus and world-renowned photographer, documentary filmmaker, and director will return to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as speaker for High School Commencement. David LaChapelle (Visual Arts ’81) will speak during the event at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 16, at UNCSA’s Stevens Center, 405 W. Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem.

For more than two decades, LaChapelle has consistently captured the spirit of a generation, producing countless artworks and music videos drenched in contemporary pop culture that all together imbue important social commentary yet remain accessible to a large audience.

“David LaChapelle’s career underscores an important lesson for our students,” said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman, who will preside over his first commencement ceremonies this year (University Commencement is at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9). “As an artist, you'll write, illustrate and direct your own success story—but it might not be the story you have in mind right now. David’s trajectory shows how much it can pay off to remain nimble, open to inspiration, and ready to grasp opportunities, even those that might seem to be out of your wheelhouse or comfort zone.” LaChapelle, Bierman said, is a great role model for graduating seniors. “His high school arts conservatory education helped him build a successful, meaningful career doing what he loves. We want that for all of our graduates,” he said. LaChapelle will receive an honorary doctorate from UNCSA during the ceremony, which will award diplomas to an estimated 121 students in Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts.

About David LaChapelle David LaChapelle is known internationally for his exceptional talent in combining a unique hyper-realistic aesthetic with profound social messages. LaChapelle’s photography career began in the 1980s when he began showing his artwork in New York City galleries. After attending the North Carolina School of Arts (Visual Arts ’81), he moved to New York where he enrolled in both the Art Students League and The School of Visual Arts. With exhibitions at 303 Gallery, Trabia McAffee, and others, his work caught the eye of Andy Warhol, who offered him his first professional photography job. His photographs of celebrities in Interview garnered attention, and before long he was shooting for a variety of top editorial publications and creating some of the most memorable advertising campaigns of his generation. After making a name for himself as a groundbreaking visionary in the field of photography, LaChapelle expanded his work to include the direction of music videos, live theatrical events, and documentary film. His directing credits include music videos for artists such as Christina Aguilera, Moby, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, and No Doubt to name just a few. His stage work includes Elton John’s The Red Piano, the Caesar’s Palace spectacular he designed and directed in 2004. In 2005 Lions Gate Films released his critically acclaimed documentary feature RIZE which was chosen to open the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and was awarded “Best Documentary” at the Aspen Film Festival. In February of 2015, LaChapelle took the Internet by storm with his video to Hozier’s song “Take Me to Church” with the Ukranian ballet superstar Sergei Polunin.

LaChapelle has earned accolades from his peers and the public over the years. In 1995 he was named Best New Photographer of the Year by both French Photo and American Photo magazines. He has been recognized twice by GLAAD: the OUT in Art Award and the Vito Russo Award for Outstanding Contributions Toward Eliminating Homophobia. In 2000 he won Best Video for Moby’s “Natural Blues” at the MTV Europe Music Awards, and he won Director of the Year for No Doubt’s “It’s My Life” in 2004. In 2012 LaChapelle was awarded Artist of the Year by the Tel Aviv Art Museum for his dedication and exceptional contribution to the visual arts. Most recently he was awarded the Young Photographers Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award.

His photographs have been collected into several monographs notably Lachapelle Land (1996), Hotel LaChapelle (1999), Artists and Prostitutes (2006), and Heaven to Hell (2006) which was chosen among the prestigious Taschen 30th Anniversary special editions and re-published in 2010. Recent years have brought LaChapelle back to where he started, making art. He is represented in the world's most prestigious galleries and museums and has had major career retrospectives at Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy (2008); Monnaie de Paris, Paris, France (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan (2010); Galerie Rudolfinum, Praha, Czech Republic (2011); Seoul Arts Center Hangaram Design Museum, Seoul, Korea (2012); Fotografiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2012); and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Lima, Peru (2015).

LaChapelle has been included in numerous important exhibitions globally at such institutions as the Barbican, London (2002); Helmut Newton Museum, Berlin (2007); Museo De Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2007); National Museum Krakow, Krakow, Poland (2008); Museo de Las Artes, Guadalajara (2009); Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel (2010); Lever House, New York (2011); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012); Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France (2013); National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (2013); Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (2014); and National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2014). His work is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Los Angeles County Museum of Contemporary Art.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit