Robert Mapplethorpe was an American photographer known for his black-and-white portraits and for documenting New York's underground. He was concerned with Classical aspects of beauty, whether in his nudes, flowers, or self-portraits-light, shadow, composition, and form were central to all his work. "I don't think that there's that much difference between a photograph of a fist up someone's ass and a photograph of carnations in a bowl," he said.
In the 1970s, Mapplethorpe and musician, poet, and artist Patti Smith lived together in New York's infamous Chelsea Hotel. He started shooting Polaroids to use in his collages inspired by the mixed-media approaches of Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. He began taking pictures of his friends and acquaintances-artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the gay scene.
Despite occasional shocking content, Mapplethorpe was a formalist, interested in composition, color, texture, balance, and, most of all, beauty. In the 1980s, he concentrated on studio photography, including formal portraits that are considerably more refined than his earlier work.