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Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 - 1989). Photographer
Gelatin silver print
30 x 29.5 cm
National Galleries of Scotland
Acc. No. PGP 180.21, © Photograph by John Swannell, Camera Press London
(Curatorial caption, accessed 23 November 2014)
This is a striking image of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. It shows a young Mapplethorpe standing beside a camera, the paper backdrop appears to have fallen forward slightly to frame him perfectly. Mapplethorpe became infamous in the 1970s and 1980s for his photographs of the male nude and sexually explicit, gay imagery. Although often considered controversial, Mapplethorpe tested the right to individual freedom of expression. These images were not meant to be titillating or obscene but beautiful in a traditionally classical way. It could be seen that Swannell was evoking a similar idea in this work. This image was taken when Mapplethorpe came to London to photograph several people and used Swannell’s studio.