At first Robert Mapplethorpe wanted to become a musician, but he eventually decided to study painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In 1968 he met the singer Patti Smith with whom he moved to the now legendary Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan in 1970. Under the influence of his friend John McEndry, curator for printed art and photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Mapplethorpe began to take an interest in photography, collecting old photographs. initially he only made montages from photographs that he found, but in 1972 he began to take pictures with a Polaroid camera.
Mapplethorpe's preferred subjects were classical themes such as still-life scenes, flowers, portraits, and nudes, all of which he recorded in rigorous compositions with an extremely precise photographic style. He caused a sensation in particular with his nudes, which defined eroticism and homosexuality with a virtually relentless arrogance. The openness with which Mapplethorpe approached in particular the male gender, and which disclosed his own homoerotic tendencies even resulted in the confiscation of his photographs at one of his exhibitions.
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