This paper will explore Robert Mapplethorpe's works and his photography subjects, themes, concepts and influences. It will also touch on Mapplethorpe's personality and how it affected his work and on his relationship to the New York art scene. Mapplethorpe was a contemporary American photographer whose works continue to influence the genre. He traversed uncharted territory with the camera, if not exactly in his choice of subjects, then in the manner in which those subjects are dealt with and in the unusual emotional aura that encompasses the photographs, creating perplexing feelings in the person looking at them. It is the ability to produce these feelings, along with the excellent technicality of Mapplethorpe's works, that made him one of the better known photographers in the United States.
Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 and died March 9, 1989, of an AIDS related illness. In 1963, he attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and continued studying there until 1970. The Pratt Institute is a 100-year-old prestigious art school which awards perhaps a million dollars a year in scholarships to students from throughout the country. The school holds a nationwide talent search every year, aimed at seniors in high school who possess exceptional talent in the areas of architecture, art and design, and media arts (photography, film/video, animation and computer graphics). The winners are accepted to study at the school. Many students have gone on to become well known artists, as Mapplethorpe did.
Mapplethorpe was represented in a string of one-person and group exhibitions, including his "Polaroids" show in New York in 1976, "Flowers" in 1977, and "Robert Mapplethorpe: Blacks and Whites" presented at the Lawson/De Celle Gallery in 1980. Other important shows included "Black Males," held at the Gallerie Il Ponte, Rome in 1982, and "Lisa Lyon" at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in 1983.