For today’s blog I’ve chosen photographer Roger Mapplethorpe, because I think his Black and white images are technically beautiful, even though the frank homosexual eroticism in many of them is usually not be my first preferred subject in photography. Neither are the flower still-lifes when it come to that. But who knows, my opinion may have changed after writing this.
This American photographer was born of the 4th of November 1946 in Floral Park, Queens as one of 5 children and became mostly known for his large-scale black and white images of nude men, flowers and portraits.
Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn in 1963, where he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture though he dropped out in 1969 before finishing his degree. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970 and began producing his own photographs to incorporate into the collages.
In 1975 he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting his circle of friends and acquaintances—artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the S & M underground. The resulting photographs from the S&M underground caused controversy amongst conservative and religious organizations which called his work “nothing more than the sensational presentation of potentially obscene material”. His sexually charged photographs of black men have been criticized as exploitative. Some images may have been shocking for their content but all were remarkable for their technical and formal mastery.
In 1986, Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepted increasingly challenging commissions. He died in 1989, only 42 years old. His body was cremated and his ashes buried in Queens, New York.
His legacy lives on through the work of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, which Mapplethorpe himself established in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.
My favourite images: