Segments in this Video

Controversial Photographer (04:32)


A Cincinnati art gallery and its director were charged with obscenity for displaying Robert Mapplethorpe's controversial photographs. The Mapplethorpe Foundation donated images, prints and artifacts to the Getty Museum and LACMA. The museum curators plan a joint retrospective.

Mapplethorpe's Youth (03:16)

Mapplethorpe's sister, Nancy Rodney remembers Mapplethorpe was not interested in photography as a child but loved to draw. She shares pictures of Mapplethorpe as a youth; his first photographs were of his sister. The Mapplethorpe children created a blind taste test contest— Mapplethorpe fed his brothers cigarette ashes.

Religious Background (01:47)

The Mapplethorpe family went to mass on Sundays. George Stack recalls how Mapplethorpe's paintings of the Virgin Mary were influenced by Pablo Picasso. Hear a recording of Mapplethorpe discussing Suburban America.

Mapplethorpe's Education (02:28)

Mapplethorpe never fit in with classmates. He graduated from Martin Van Buren High School. Other students called him "Maypo" — Mapplethorpe abhorred photography class and would turn in his father's pictures as homework.

Unusual Art (02:55)

Getty Museum Archivist Michelle Brunnick, wonders how Mapplethorpe's art evolved. Harry McCue describes how Mapplethorpe would add LSD to cigarettes. He bought a monkey— when it died, he used its skull in a final exam.

Identifying as an Artist (02:33)

Mapplethorpe used the same poses in art school as in his most famous works. McCue recalls the last time he saw Mapplethorpe. Patti Smith walked into Mapplethorpe's apartment while he slept— Lloyd Ziff took photographs of the pair.

Living in the Chelsea Hotel (03:15)

Smith worked at local bookstores. Sandy Daley asked Mapplethorpe to help decorate her room for a television interview; he created fetish sculpture.

New Innovative Art Form? (02:38)

Mapplethorpe's brother saw him and Smith as otherworldly. Mapplethorpe stole homosexual pornographic magazines and created collages. Daley called it Mapplethorpe's "Love story to porn."

Polaroid Camera Phase (02:49)

Mapplethorpe wanted to create photographs. He would remove the emulsion from the film, and stretch out the photograph. David Croland describes how he met Mapplethorpe.

David Croland and Mapplethorpe (02:41)

Mapplethorpe pierced his nipple in a film Daley directed. The film premiered at the Museum of Modern Art and Bob Colacello reviewed it for "Interview" magazine. He wrote the highlight of the piece was Smith's monologue about why she hates homosexuals.

Polaroid Photographs (03:51)

Mapplethorpe's first solo exhibition invitation included a naked self-portrait. Musicians and artists gathered at Max's Kansas City. Fran Lebowitz and Debbie Harry discuss how ambitious and charming Mapplethorpe was.

Sadism and Masochism (02:14)

Croland recalls entering Mapplethorpe's loft and discovering him wearing a codpiece— Mapplethorpe asked Croland to delve deeper into the world of "S and M." Croland introduced him to Sam Wagstaff, who became Mapplethorpe's protector.

Mapplethorpe's Benefactor (02:35)

Wagstaff bought Mapplethorpe a loft on Bond Street. Neighbors discuss getting to know the artist. Helen Marden describes how Mapplethorpe loved to take pictures of her bats and how affluent "the Bond and Bowery" area became.

Collecting Photography (02:41)

Mapplethorpe began to study photographs from Lewis Carroll, Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, Thomas Eakins, and Claude Moon. Archivists at the Getty Center examine intimate shots of Mapplethorpe and Wagstaff. Initially, Wagstaff did not like to be photographed, but it helped him become more comfortable with his sexuality.

Delving into Pornography (02:15)

Mapplethorpe befriended porn star Peter Berlin. Jack Fritscher describes how Mapplethorpe introduced himself as a pornographic photographer; he was prolific.

Unabashedly Ambitious (02:03)

Mapplethorpe went to "Drummer" to increase his notoriety; initially Colacello could not hire him but eventually relented. "Interview" magazine sent Mapplethorpe to Mustique Island. Carolina Herrera recalls Mapplethorpe telling her she would regret not posing for him.

Mapplethorpe's Double Life (02:43)

Mapplethorpe attended upper class functions and and attend a private gay organization where members engaged in BDSM, fetishes, and corpology. Fritscher describes events he witnessed at the club. Robert Sherman modeled for him after meeting him at the club.

X Portfolio (05:52)

Chris Stein and Debbie Harry recall the portfolio at Mapplethorpe's studio. Carol Squiers recalls interviewing Mapplethorpe at his apartment. Friends and relatives recall the most provocative photographs within the portfolio and the stories behind them.

Print for Mom and Dad (02:34)

Harry Mapplethorpe thought the flower prints were beautiful, but could not accept the more provocative photographs. Mapplethorpe and Smith told the family they were married; his father always suspected he was gay. Rodney describes the rift in the family.

"Portraits" and "Erotic Pictures" Exhibitions (02:36)

Holly Solomon insisted she pose for Mapplethorpe before agreeing to exhibit his photographs. Wagstaff and Mapplethorpe organized a second exhibit to highlight Mapplethorpe's erotic photography. Lebowitz explains that provocative photographs would have overshadowed the beauty of the portraits.

Moving "Uptown" (03:48)

When Mapplethorpe decided to switch to the Robert Miller gallery, he gave Solomon "Self -portrait with a Whip." Colacello and Stack discuss the catholic imagery in Mapplethorpe's BDSM photographs. Fritscher reads a personal letter from Mapplethorpe and explains the humorous side of his photography.

Marcus Leatherdale (02:36)

Mapplethorpe met Leatherdale at his exhibit's opening and invited Leatherdale to stay with him in New York. Leatherdale began to gain notoriety as a photographer, frustrating Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe complained about the house guest.

Bond Street Loft (02:45)

Suzanne Donaldson, Tina Summerlin and Tom Baril worked at Mapplethorpe's studio from 1983-1989. Baril processed and developed his film— the first photograph he printed was sexually explicit. Edward became Mapplethorpe's assistant after graduating art school.

Mapplethorpe's Vision (03:25)

Baril and Edward describe Mapplethorpe's perfectionist nature. Originally, Mapplethorpe wanted to create a book of photography centering on Smith, but when she left New York in 1980, he chose Lisa Lyon. Squiers recalls how irate Mapplethorpe became after reading her negative review.

Obsessed with African Americans (02:48)

Logan explains that because Mapplethorpe loved the people he photographed, he was not exploiting black people or using them as a form of social statement. Biographer Patricia Morrisroe describes how he searched for the ideal penis and found it.

Black Males Exhibit (03:37)

Mapplethorpe premiered "Picture of Man in Polyester Suit." Howard Read recalls Mapplethorpe wondering if anyone would write about the exhibit. Peter Marino bought the image from Sotheby's for $360,000.

Jack Walls (03:38)

Walls was Mapplethorpe's last long-term relationship. Mapplethorpe chastised Ken Moody for being "too white." The models laugh about how critics interpret social commentary from "Ken Moody and Robert Sherman."

Perfectionism (03:02)

Mapplethorpe wanted models to move incrementally to perfect the shot. In addition to his personal work, he would commission portraits for $10,000. He shot Annie Leibovitz, Debbie Harry, Donald Sutherland, The Talking Heads, Kathleen Turner, and Yoko Ono.

Competition between Brothers (02:57)

In 1984, Edward Mapplethorpe was invited to present his work in an exhibition that Mapplethorpe was also participating in. Mapplethorpe was furious and insisted Edward use a pseudonym. Edward changed his last name to Maxey and left the studio.

Mine Shaft Closes (02:45)

Walls recalls Mapplethorpe visiting the Mine Shaft twice a day to choose sexual partners. Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS and Wagstaff died. Mapplethorpe continued shooting until he was physically unable— Summerlin reads an excerpt from her journal about Mapplethorpe.

Commercial Work (03:04)

Mapplethorpe wanted to earn $1 million in a month. He set up a foundation to continue to promote his work after death and donated the proceeds to AID's research. He asked Edward to return to work and they began a new book: "Some Women."

Exhibiting Mapplethorpe (03:57)

Edward Mapplethorpe and Brian English explain how "Self-Portrait, 1988" was created. At the age of 41, the Whitney Museum hosted a retrospective of Mapplethorpe's career and included the BDSM photography. Johnathan Becker described it as a "memorial with a living corpse"— Colacello called it Mapplethorpe's proudest day.

"The Perfect Moment" (02:17)

Janet Karden met with Mapplethorpe and they decided to show the complete X, Y, and Z portfolios. Karden designed a display case tall enough that only adults could see the graphic imagery. Mapplethorpe was too ill to attend the opening .

Mapplethorpe's Final Days (03:03)

Mapplethorpe organized a going away party before his death. Croland recalls Mapplethorpe asking him to tell Morriscoe everything about their relationship. Mappplethorpe died on March 9th, 1989 at the age of 42.

"The Perfect Moment" Tours the Country (02:22)

The Corcoran Gallery cancelled the exhibit. Of the 175 images only a few were controversial. In Cincinnati, anti-pornography advocates launched a campaign to close the show— the Contemporary Arts Center was acquitted of obscenity.

Mapplethorpe's Legacy (01:47)

When she moved apartments, Lebowitz discarded Mapplethorpe's photographs. The Mapplethorpe foundation endowed the Guggenheim Museum with $5 million to start a photography collection. In 1998, the Mapplethorpe estate was valued at $228 million.

Credits: Mapplethorpe: Look At the Pictures (01:45)

Credits: Mapplethorpe: Look At the Pictures

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Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures

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In 1989, on the floor of Congress, Senator Jesse Helms implored America to “Look at the pictures,” while denouncing the controversial art of Robert Mapplethorpe, whose photographs pushed social boundaries with their frank depictions of nudity, sexuality and fetishism – and ignited a culture war that rages to this day. More than 25 years later, the HBO Documentary Films presentation Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures does just that, taking an unflinching, unprecedented look at Mapplethorpe’s most provocative work. From acclaimed filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Inside Deep Throat; HBO’s Wishful Drinking and The Eyes of Tammy Faye), and produced by Katharina Otto-Bernstein (Absolute Wilson), the film is the first feature-length documentary about the artist since his death from AIDS in 1989 (at age 42), and is the most comprehensive film on Mapplethorpe ever made. The film goes inside preparations for two landmark Mapplethorpe retrospectives, at The J. Paul Getty Museum and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), utilizing the exhibitions as a jumping-off point to tell the complete story of Mapplethorpe’s life and work, and to explore the interplay between his personal and professional lives. A fresh, fascinating and candid look at an iconic and divisive figure, Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures shines a light on a controversial artist who helped turn contemporary photography into a fine art. An HBO Production.

Length: 109 minutes

Item#: BVL117873

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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