Celebrity photographer David LaChapelle opened his latest exhibit titled “American Jesus” in New York City’s Chelsea district. The images capture Michael Jackson, a longtime friend of LaChapelle’s in a series of biblical scenes, and just before his death. Supermodel Naomi Campbell also appears in a photograph as Botticelli’s Venus.

The photographer recently interviewed with WWD revealing the inspiration behind his new exhibit and, why he features the King of Pop as an “American Jesus.”

On featuring Michael Jackson in religious scenery, LaChapelle explains, “Michael had paintings of himself at Neverland depicting himself as a knight, and surrounded by cherubs and angels.” Commenting on the star’s troubled past, the photographer says, “Michael couldn’t even get B-listers to show up for the second trail. With these picture he’s saying, ‘I’m not the joke and the horror the media is making me out to be.'”

When asked if he really considers Jackson a modern-day Jesus–a hint at the show’s title–LaChapelle says, “I believe Michael in a sense is an American martyr. Martyrs are persecuted and Michael was persecuted. Michael was innocent and martyrs are innocent.”

Another fascinating image is one in which the photographer features himself called, “The Rape of Africa.” Do share your thoughts on this one readers!

New Yorkers can see the full exhibition running through September 18th at the Paul Kasmin Gallery .

What do you think about these images?

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