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Robert Mapplethorpe 1986

The lousiest, and the best bookstores have a pile of photographic erotica in some corner.
At times, when I ran into books by Robert Mapplethorpe, I picked them up, wondering about their prominence, and put them away again choosing to ignore his work.

mapplethorpe_joe 1978

Robert Mapplethorpe, Joe, 1978


Robert Mapplethorpe


Robert Mapplethorpe

The representation of the male body from a homosexual point of view
was rootedly alien to me . Furthermore Mapplethorpes images were far to stylized for my taste.
Nan Goldins occupation with sexuality was always closer to my outlook on life and on photography. Her images seemed to be less artificial than the studio constructions by Mapplethorpe.

His sight on reality is dominated by his sexuality: his images are loaded with erotic tension.


Robert Mapplethorpe, 1983

When Mapplethorpe forgets about the leather and moves over to human skin, then, after a first moment of alienation, I get a feeling for the desire he is depicting.

I only translate my own stuff: I can’t take the responsibility to mutilate someone else’s language. Therefore I won’t quote from Roland Barthes “Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography” as I did in the German version of this post.

According to Barthes pornography usually depicts the female or male) as an immovable fetish that doesn’t leave it’s niche, adulated like a god. Erotic photography, Barthes states, doesn’t turn the sex to its main object, erotic photography doesn’t even have to show it; erotic photography leads the spectator out of the frame and thus motivates him to animate a photograph or to get animated by it.


Robert Mapplethorpe

mapplethorpe_white_vase 1982

Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982

Robert Mapplethorpe’s self portraits, especially the ones where he blurs the line between male and female self representation, made me too have a second look at his images.

0_photographers_mapplethorpe_self_portraitRobert Mapplethorpe

mapplethorpe_self-portrait 1980

Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980

Mapplethorpe’s gaze: as if he would see himself for the first time. His eyes are wide open. He looks vulnerable.

For Barthes the following photograph is a cheerfully erotic one. The photographer, he writes, has observed the decisive moment, the kairos of desire.


Robert Mapplethorpe, 1975


Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982

A hand lying flat on a stained mattress. Not an usual image by Mapplethorpe whose photographic cosmos doesn’t show traces of the everyday, and whose images are literally “clean.”

This is a photograph I prefer not give any interpretation.
A photograph that might not hurt anybodies sense of shame, anyways it doesn’t hurt mine. But for me it is more intimate and private than any close up of the male or female sex or any image of people ”doing it” ever could be.