Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) took his first photographs
using a Polaroid camera. His first Polaroids were self-portraits
and the first of a series of portraits of his close friend, the singer-artist-poet Patti Smith. These early photographic works were generally shown in groups or elaborately presented in shaped and painted frames that were as significant to the finished piece as the photograph itself. Then he acquired a large format press camera and began taking photographs of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. These included artists, composers, socialites, pornographic
film stars and members of the S & M underground. Some of these photographs were shocking for their content but exquisite in their technical mastery. During the early 1980s, Mapplethorpe's photographs began a shift toward a phase of refinement of subject and an emphasis on classical formal beauty. During this period he concentrated on statuesque male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and formal portraits of artists and celebrities.