Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe was an American photographer who’s work was big from the 60’s to the 80’s until he died in 1989. His work was rather controversial and evolved a lot round nudism, bondage and S&M. His work was only ever black and white photography.
He did a lot of portraits as well as full body shots. He captured some very famous faces in his work.

Images 1-16 are from the official ‘Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation’

His more controversial work included of homoerotism and sometimes rather crude sexual references which make for uncomfortable viewing in some cases. He definitely wanted to push boundaries and cause a stir.

A lot of his photgraphy did involve male nudes nut he did also use women too.

Mapplethorpe worked closely with American singer-song writer Patti Smith. He took a lot of photos of Patti and they also did shoots together with Mapplethorpe in them with her.

Is photographs seem to have a dark side to them that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it the use of black and white which creates this somber and morose quality. I do like it though and its effects benefit the photographs extremely well. Using colour can sometimes take away the emotion of an image, especially if it is meant to be portraying a dark and melancholy theme.

Here are some of his more controversial images. I have tried to keep them quite tame..

Obviously, Mapplethorpe’s art concentrated on the body in a very sexual way. If we compare him to an artist such as Jenny Saville who also focus on the physique of females we see a contrast on either ends of the spectrum. Where most people with interests of S&M for example, would practice this interest in privacy, Mapplethorpe was more than happy to present this activity in a very public way.
It just shows how we as individuals use the body to convey different feelings and opinions in ways which the majority would probably find unnerving and off putting. As I said, Saville and Mapplethorpe are not even on the same wave length, but they both use the body as a way of expressing inner thoughts without having to say them. This is what art is about. It is a form of expression without having to use words.
If I was to view Mapplethorpe’s art work for the first time I would think…This artist likes sex, he likes nudity, especially where males are concerned, he is almost certainly gay and he likes to be talked about.

Is this stereo typing?
I don’t think so. I may be incorrect in my opinions but I think he made it quite clear in his work that these would probably be true facts. But by artists using models for their work they can express their personal interests and desires no matter how dark without having to relinquish themselves.
I think Mapplethorpe did this very well and very cleverly.


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