Celebrity photographer David LaChapelle is suing R&B star Rihanna for $1 million, accusing the “Umbrella” singer of ripping off his fetishistic photographs in her 2010 video for the song “S&M.”
LaChapelle, whose highly stylized photos have graced ad campaigns for companies as diverse as Burger King and Giorgio Armani, charges the pop diva and her music video director, Melina Matsoukas, “copied” his “total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, décor, wardrobe and lighting” for the video.
LaChapelle, who commands no less than $1 million for his photo shoots, charges that the pop star and her people wanted his look without paying his fees. According to the suit, Rihanna and her label, Island Def Jam Music Group, were shopping around the idea of a “LaChapelle-esque music video.”
One director, papers show, passed on the project before Matsoukas landed the job. The music video director, who has done videos with top R&B artists like Beyonce, Alicia Keyes and Lady Gaga, used elements of eight of LaChapelle’s shots that had already been published in fashion magazines around the world, the photographer alleges.
A sequence in the video showing Rihanna in profile wearing a pink latex hood and false eyelashes in front of a blue background holding a piece of candy on her tongue is a direct ripoff of the photographer's work “Latex,” according to the suit.
Matsoukas and the pop star also used LaChapelle's photographs in storyboards during the production of the video, he claims.
The suit isn't the only negative publicity that the song has garnered. “S&M,” a single off Rihanna’s 2010 album “Loud,” was banned in several countries for its explicit lyrics, according to reports. On Monday, Steven Gawley, vice president for legal affairs with Island Def Jam, was in transit after the Grammy Awards and could not be reached for comment.
Rihanna and Matsoukas also could not be reached.