Robert Mapplethorpe

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Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) was a well-known and controversial photographer who became famous for his sexually explicit pictures (many of them with homosexual themes). The fact that some of his work was publicly funded led to a campaign to eliminate "offensive" art from the National Endowment. He lived the lifestyle that he promoted and died at the age of 42 from an AIDS-related illness.

Mapplethorpe's photographs included detailed explorations of flowers, homosexual erotica, and Patti Smith, with whom he lived early in his career. His work is often viewed as a continuation of the image-focused exhibits of fellow artist Andy Warhol, as well as exploration in the study of composition and grayscale utilization pioneered by Diane Arbus and Paul Outerbridge.[1] While not particularly technically adept, Mapplethorpe had a keen instinctual eye for that which he was photographing. “I never liked photography,” he said of his work. “Not for the sake of photography. I like the object. I like the photographs when you hold them in your hand.”[2]

Smith's memoir of her relationship with Mapplethorpe, Just Kids, won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010.[3]


  1. Morrinsoe, Patricia. Mapplethorpe: A Biography. New York: Random House
  2. Mapplethorpe Foundation Website