Art and controversy are regular bedfellows but occasionally an artist will create such a stir that it will resonate to a far greater audience than their work attracts. Robert Mapplethorpe did this but it wasn’t until after his death that he managed to achieve such popular notoriety. In Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s documentary, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, they provide an interesting insight into the life and work of a photographer desperate for success.
Robert Mapplethorpe may well be a name unfamiliar to many but if you’re of a certain age I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen one of his shots, or at least read about them. His early career is intersected and intertwined to his relationship with Patti Smith. He first came to light for his still-life images of flowers but it’s his black and white celebrity portraits and pictures of nudes for which he’s most acclaimed. His photographs of the BDSM scene in New York for which he is infamous.
Barbato and Fenton paint a colourful portrait of a highly driven artists, mixing interviews with lovers, friends and collaborators with examples of his work and archive photos. There’s no doubting his talent or commitment, but his drive and focus clearly left a dent on those around him; both friends and family. Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is an eye-opening insight into the life and work of a very talented artist.
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is in cinemas from Friday.