Mapplethorpe, Look at the Pictures

Mapplethorpe | self-portrait

Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait. Image source:

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

“I don’t know how to describe them (flowers), but I don’t think they’re very different from body parts”. (Robert Mapplethorpe)

Robert Mapplethorpe took the most shocking photos, and at the same time the most refined pictures in the history of photography.
He didn’t mean to be a photographer; he wanted to be an artist.
And he became one of the most outrageous photographers appeared on the international photography scene.

I saw Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, the new movie directed by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, and I realised that I didn’t know anything about this American photographer.
The documentary film will arrive in Italy at The Space Cinema on October 24th 2016, but I saw the preview of the movie, and I’ll give you my opinion.

Wanted Cinema, which had already given me the opportunity to enjoy the private show of Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, offered me a reserved show.

Robert Mapplethorpe | Ken Moody and Robert Sherman

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1984. Image source:

Everyone will give his/her own opinion on this documentary: some people will hate it, whereas other people will love it.
I can’t express a judgement on the movie suitable for everyone, because the film needs to be experienced in first person.
This film is a punch in the stomach, and an incessant provocation.

I love photography but those of Mapplethorpe are certainly not like the pictures of the Magnum Agency.
I knew Mapplethorpe’s beautiful black-and-white pictures, and the famous photo of Patti Smith, the American singer-songwriter, on the cover of her first album Horses. Frankly, I’ve never seen Mapplethorpe’s series “Portfolio X”, which caused a scandal and keeps doing it now due to its erotic subject.
Mapplethorpe portrayed extreme erotic practices in an explicit way, and the movie narrates the origin of those photos, and how photography became a medium for the artist to describe the body as if it was a flower, or any ordinary natural element.

The documentary film tells Mapplethorpe’s ambition, his life pushed to the limit, his friendships, his lovers, his relationship with his family, AIDS and his death, through archive documents and interviews with people who knew him.
Mapplethorpe’s life is narrated in a chronological order.
His quiet childhood, his art studies, and then his meeting with Patti Smith, with whom he had a strong love affair, and the research of an expressive artistic language.
She would become a musician; he would become a photographer.
She would get married and have a family; he would lose himself in the underground gay sex club scene of New York.

In this movie Robert Mapplethorpe appears as a beautiful angel, fallen and wasted, who had a great ability to seduce people and use them in order to reach his own goals.
At the end of his short life (he died of AIDS in 1989 at the age of 42) the artist was conscious of being a great photographer, but especially an artist not totally understood.
Mapplethorpe’s nudes were and are outrageous, they scandalise, they anger due to their insolence, but at the same time they propose an ideal of refined classical beauty.
Maybe he was an angel, or maybe he was a devil.
It’s up to you. You’ll decide, after watching the movie, who Mapplethorpe was.

SEE ALSO: Vivian Maier: the pioneer of street photography

Robert Mapplethorpe | Patti Smith

Robert Mapplethorpe, Horses – Patti Smith. Image source:

Selfportrait | Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe – Autoritratto – 1975. Image source:

 Robert Mapplethorpe | Black And White

Robert Mapplethorpe Black And White on mapplethorpe still life . Image source:

Mapplethorpe | self-portrait

Mapplethorpe’s 1985 self-portrait. Image source:


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