IDFA - Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
The only thing more controversial than the work of world-famous homoerotic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was his life.
The only thing more controversial than the work of world-famous New York homoerotic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was his life. This is a portrait of an artist who elevated contemporary photography to fine art, unleashing a cultural conflict that continues to rage. The documentary’s title is derived from a call by an outraged homophobic U.S. senator named Jesse Helms, who went to court to get a Mapplethorpe exhibition closed down in 1989.
We follow curators from the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as they prepare a parallel retrospective of Mapplethorpe’s work. Their observations on sexuality, portraits, self-portraits and floral still lives form the framework for a biography of the artist that includes interviews with members of Mapplethorpe’s family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, models, lovers, art critics and collectors. All of them are shot in color using a Hasselblad, the characteristic camera with which Mapplethorpe took his black-and-white photos. Thanks to old audio recordings, Mapplethorpe himself – who died of AIDS at 42 – frequently takes on the role of narrator.