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. Mapplethorpe himself admitted he regarded some of his work as pornography. 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