About Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe (November 4, 1946, New York City – March 9, 1989, Boston, Massachusetts) was an American photographer, known for his sometimes controversial large-scale, highly stylized black and white photography. His work featured an array of subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, and still-life images of flowers. His most controversial work is that of the underground bondage and sadomasochistic BDSM scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s of New York. The homoeroticism of this work fueled a national debate over the public funding of controversial artworks.

Mapplethorpe worked primarily in a studio, and almost exclusively in black and white, with the exception of some of his later work and his final exhibit 'New Colors'. His body of work features a wide range of subjects, but his main focus and the greater part of his work is erotic imagery. He would refer to some of his own work as pornographic, with the aim of arousing the viewer, but which could also be regarded as high art. His erotic art explored a wide range of sexual subjects, depicting the BDSM subculture of New York in the 1970s, portrayals of black male nudes, and classical nudes of female bodybuilders. Mapplethorpe was a participant observer for much of his erotic photography, participating in the sexual acts which he was photographing and engaging his models sexually.

Read more
Robert Mapplethorpe's Projects on LensCulture