On the current cover of Flaunt is a David LaChapelle photograph of Naomi Campbell, entitled "The Rape Of Africa." The fold-out cover features black boys playing with M16 rifles and grenade launchers while a white male model slumbers.

LaChapelle's "The Rape Of Africa" is the title piece from a recent exhibition the photographer held at a gallery in Amsterdam. This is the full Flaunt cover shot:

If it reminds you of a certain Botticelli painting, you aren't alone. As the Daily points out, the composition is a direct reference to the Florentine painter's 1483 work "Venus And Mars."

The original is actually a kind of touching portrait of male vulnerability, albeit one with somewhat trite overtones about love conquering war. Mars, the Roman god of war, has fallen asleep in a forest clearing, having removed all of his armor and laid down his weapons. Venus, the god of love, watches over him in a lavish gown, all the while allowing little satyrs to play with Mars' lance and helmet. One is about to whistle into Mars' ear with a shell that would have been used as a hunting horn. The mighty god of war lies supine, clad only in his underwear.


So what does it mean that LaChapelle recreated the scene with modern weaponry, Naomi Campbell, and threw in a reference to Africa? I personally find it discomfiting to see Africa personified by the bare-breasted Campbell in the context of a work called "The Rape Of Africa." But perhaps highlighting the unease of using rape as metaphor is the point. Is this more empty, self-consciously "controversial," candy-colored bombast from the photographer who once gave us the Courtney Love pièta, or is LaChapelle actually making some kind of statement about...something?

Flaunt Magazine [Official Site]
LaChapelle Studios [Official Site]
If You've Got It... [FWD]