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Discover His Most Famous Photographs
Robert Mapplethorpe - Ken Moody and Robert Sherman , 1984
8" x 8"
Print in Colors
In this luminescent black-and-white photograph, Robert Mapplethorpe portrays two of his friends–a black man, Ken Moody, and a white man, Robert Sherman. The subjects are rendered in profile and appear unusually still, a quality that would later mark Mapplethorpe’s still-life photographs of flowers. Set against a uniform dark background, the work highlights its own contrasts: closed eyes and open eyes, black and white, texture and smoothness, tension and harmony. In this study of quiet, classical beauty, even the men’s physical imperfections appear smooth and polished. These extraordinary effects result from Mapplethorpe’s punctilious engagement with the details of the photographic process, from the selection of film and paper to nuances of staging and lighting. He often shot five or six rolls of film to produce a single photograph.
Robert Mapplethorpe - Self-Portrait W/ Cigarette, 1980
8" x 8"
Print in Colors
Mapplethorpe portrays himself as the archetypal bad boy, with black leather jacket, dark shirt, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, the coolly appraising gaze and the carefully coiffed 1950s-style hair. Mapplethorpe was keen to promote this image of himself as cool and impervious to emotion. The composition helps to underscore this. The pose is wholly frontal and composed so that his mouth lies at the very centre of the photograph.
Understand Who Robert Mapplethorpe Was
There are few photographers who have sparked national debate around artistic freedom and eroticism as profoundly as Robert Mapplethorpe. Although championed for his erotic black and white photography of fetish and leather gay imagery in New York City, his artistic accomplishments range across many media. He is best known as a photographer and his subjects consisted of sculptural nudes, erotic S&M imagery, homoerotic themes, flowers, and portraits of celebrities. His formalist approach to photography allowed the artist to approach subjects primarily through beauty and composition, and secondarily through content. It is easy to find the documentary value of his work, however it is the plight for artistic expression of which he was most concerned, consistently searching for new levels of self-expression. His work continues to be considered taboo by many, yet he remains to be one of the most revered American photographers.
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