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Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe

Country: United States
Birth: 1946 | Death: 1989

Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens. Of his childhood he said, "I come from suburban America. It was a very safe environment and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave."

In 1963, Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he also experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970 and began producing his own photographs to incorporate into the collages, saying he felt "it was more honest." That same year he and Patti Smith, whom he had met three years earlier, moved into the Chelsea Hotel.

Mapplethorpe quickly found satisfaction taking Polaroid photographs in their own right and indeed few Polaroids actually appear in his mixed-media works. In 1973, the Light Gallery in New York City mounted his first solo gallery exhibition, Polaroids. Two years later he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting his circle of friends and acquaintances—artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the S & M underground. He also worked on commercial projects, creating album cover art for Patti Smith and Television and a series of portraits and party pictures for Interview Magazine.

In the late 70s, Mapplethorpe grew increasingly interested in documenting the New York S & M scene. The resulting photographs are shocking for their content and remarkable for their technical and formal mastery. Mapplethorpe told ARTnews in late 1988, "I don't like that particular word 'shocking.' I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before … I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them." Meanwhile his career continued to flourish. In 1977, he participated in Documenta 6 in Kassel, West Germany and in 1978, the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City became his exclusive dealer.

Mapplethorpe met Lisa Lyon, the first World Women's Bodybuilding Champion, in 1980. Over the next several years they collaborated on a series of portraits and figure studies, a film, and the book, Lady, Lisa Lyon. Throughout the 80s, Mapplethorpe produced a bevy of images that simultaneously challenge and adhere to classical aesthetic standards: stylized compositions of male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and studio portraits of artists and celebrities, to name a few of his preferred genres. He introduced and refined different techniques and formats, including color 20" x 24" Polaroids, photogravures, platinum prints on paper and linen, Cibachrome and dye transfer color prints. In 1986, he designed sets for Lucinda Childs' dance performance, Portraits in Reflection, created a photogravure series for Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, and was commissioned by curator Richard Marshall to take portraits of New York artists for the series and book, 50 New York Artists.

That same year, in 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepted increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death in 1989.

His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Today Mapplethorpe is represented by galleries in North and South America and Europe and his work can be found in the collections of major museums around the world. Beyond the art historical and social significance of his work, his legacy lives on through the work of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. He established the Foundation in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.
 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Joël Tettamanti
Switzerland
1977
Joël Tettamanti was born in 1977 in Efok, Cameroon, and grew up in Lesotho and Switzerland. He studied photography at ECAL, Lausanne, where his teachers were Pierre Fantys and Nicolas Faure. Following his studies, he worked as an assistant to the photographer Guido Mocafico in Paris. Tettamanti is established as a commercial and media photographer for clients such as Wallpaper*, Kvadrat, and international architects. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Europe, and has been the subject of several monographs, including Local Studies (2007) and Davos (2009). He lives in Lausanne. The Swiss photographer Tettamanti creates works that focus on the impact of human settlement on the landscape, from Asia to the Arctic Circle. The images are often without people, examining instead the contradiction of human frailty and resilience, and the relationships people form with the land. His work is a vast archive of the structures, villages, and cities people create, and of the landforms and climates that shape them. Like many photographers who have been drawn to archive the world, Tettamanti’s interest lies beyond collecting artifacts of the human imprint on the land. The questions he asks of a place – why things look the way they do, and how they came about – lead to profoundly social narratives about the people who are uplifted and sometimes defeated by the land they inhabit. Tettamanti gravitates toward inhospitable environments where these relationships play out in spectacle: the juxtaposition of sublime natural beauty and buildings of startling banality, or ingenuity, or of land seemingly without limit and the meager architecture put upon it. The story can be one of use and misuse, where urban sprawl or industrial incursions have degraded the land and corrupted its beauty, as well as one of human adaptability and resourcefulness. The land is shaped by people as much as it shapes them. His quest as an artist recalls the expeditionary photography of the American West in the nineteenth century, when territories previously unexplored by Americans were opened to visual imagination by the camera. Today, when technology and globalization make distant cultures accessible, there is still a sense of revelation in Tettamanti’s work. For this artist, much like the nineteenth-century pioneers of the medium, photography remains a means of understanding the world, and retains the power to astonish with images of places that exist beyond the imagination. Source: MIT Museum
Stephan Vanfleteren
Stephan Vanfleteren studied photography at Lucas Institute in Brussels (1988-1992). From 1993 to 2009, he worked as a free-lance photographer for the Belgian Journal De Morgen and always worked and invested in his own personal projects. Actually, Stephan works for museums, he's publishing his portraits in foreign journals and several foreign magazines. He's cofounder of Hannibal Publishing and Cannibal Publishing. Stephan Vanfleteren is art-director for the two publishing houses. PRICES 1996 - World Press Photo Award - Sports, third prize stories - Boxing in Cuba 1997 - World Press Photo Award - Daily Life, first prize stories - Aids, Kenia 1998 - European Fuji Awards 2000 - World Press Photo Award - Arts and Entertainment, third prize stories, Elvis & Presley 2001 - World Press Photo Award - Children's Award, prize singles - Afghanistan 2001 - European Fuji Award 2007 - Nikon Press Photo Award 2009 - Louis Paul Boon award - Belgium 2010 - Lead Awards: 'Portätfotografie des Jahres', Germany 2011 - Henri Nannen Price, Germany - Tomi Ungerer 2012 - Vijfjaarlijkse Cultuurprijs voor de Provincie West-Vlaanderen 2012 - National Portrait price of the Netherlands - Rem Koolhaas, Dutch architect 2013 - World Press Photo Award - Staged Portraits, first prize stories, People of Mercy 2019 - Henri Nannen Price, Germany - Angels of the Sea - Mare Publication. BOOKS 1999 - Elvis&Presley, with photographer Robert Huber (Switserland) 2000 - Buren, with Mark Power & Eva Leitolf 2003 - Tales from a Globalizing World 2005 - Flandrien - Cannibal Publishing 2007 - Belgicum - Hannibal Publishing 2009 - Portret 1989-2009 - Lannoo 2012 - En avant, marche! - Hannibal Publishing 2013 - Façades & Vitrines (Limited edition 666 exp) - Hannibal Publishing 2014 - MMXIV - De Red Devils - Cannibal Publishing 2014 - Atlantic Wall - Hannibal Publishing 2015 - Charleroi, il est clair que le gris est noir - Hannibal Publishing 2018 - SURF TRIBE - Hannibal Publishing 2019 - PRESENT - Hannibal Publishing 2019 - ONUITGESPROKEN - Hannibal Publishing About PRESENT Stephan Vanfleteren is mainly known to the general public for his penetrating black & white portrait photography, but over the past decades his work has ranged to documentary, artistic and personal pictures. From street photography in world cities like New York to the genocide of Ruanda, from storefront façades to the mystical landscapes of the Atlantic wall, from still lifes to intense portraits. The iconic images sit side by side with unknown treasures in this heavy tome containing no less than 505 photographs. In the very personal accompanying text, Vanfleteren reflects on how his own work and the photography genre as a whole have evolved in recent decades. You get a close-up look at his intriguing career from the very beginning, when he travelled the world with an appetite for action. He also photographed his home country: all of the headline news stories of the 1990s appeared before his lens. Around the Millennium, Vanfleteren started to focus on that which is disappearing. With painstaking attention to nuance he created a visual archive of his homeland and of his fellow Belgians, in his own inimitable style. In the last few years Vanfleteren has brought the world inside, to his daylight studio, resulting in many encounters and portraits. This book includes two new series – not previously published – which were born in the intimacy of his studio: an exploration of the still life and a study of nude photography, both in colour. Present is an impressive overview of Vanfleteren's oeuvre that provides a complete picture of him as a photographer, an artist, and above all a human being who faces life with empathy, wonder, and curiosity. More about PRESENT
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Alex Strohl
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Margarita Mavromichalis
Margarita Mavromichalis comes from a family of Greek diplomats and has spent her life living and traveling all over the world. She speaks five languages and studied translation and interpreting. She likes to think that photography is her second language, as it's a universal language, one that is understood by all across the world and conveys messages in the most powerful way. Margarita moved to New York in 2009. She continued her studies for three years at the International Center of Photography where she also served as a Teaching Assistant for several classes. She moved back to Greece from 2013 to 2016 where she devoted most of her work covering the refugee crisis as it developed on the island of Lesvos. She currently lives and works in London. Margarita is mostly attracted to street photography and the elements that evoke emotions and surprise in our everyday life. Furthermore she is passionate about documenting current events that she feels very strongly about, highlighting their social impact. Her work has been displayed in exhibitions in New York, Boston, San Diego, The Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Historical Society and most recently in Budapest, Athens, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and London. Selected images are part of the permanent collections of the Museum of the City of New York and the Brooklyn Historical Society. She is the winner of the 9th Pollux Awards (2016) and the winner of the 12th edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Awards (2018) and has been nominated for the 2019 Prix Pictet Hope Award and was recently awarded the 15th edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award (2020). In 2021, she won a Gold Medal at the Budapest International Foto Awards, a Silver Medal at the Prix de la Photographie Paris and is an official selection and top 5 at the Tokyo International Foto Awards.
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