Laine’s Loves… Look At The Pictures

Laine’s Loves… Look At The Pictures

New documentary of Robert Mapplethorpe explains the controversy but looks deeper at the extraordinarily ambitious man behind the shocking photos.

Laine’s Loves… Look At The Pictures

It’s easy to look at Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautiful but brutally explicit photos in our post-internet world of every form of niche porn and think, ‘So what?’ Actually, that’s not remotely true – even today many of is perfectly composed images are still truly shocking. His X Portfolio contains photos of extreme sexual practices that the government recently banned again. Yep, Mapplethorpe was hardcore.

So going to an art gallery in the 80s or early 90s and seeing them on the wall (or, actually, a table top that children couldn’t see onto) must have been an intense experience. Now imagine that art gallery is in America. All of which goes to explain why Mapplethorpe is one of the most famous photographers of his era. His cover of ex-girlfriend Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ is just one of his amazing clothes-on portraits that you could Google at work.

But Look At The Pictures is only partly about photography. It’s about ambition, religion, death and a New York that is long gone – a New York of artists, crime and characters, often pushed together run down neighbourhoods. It’s also about how sex almost derailed the New York art scene for a decade, first as artists were too busy fucking, and then, like Mapplethorpe, dying young.

The documentary doesn’t pull any punches. His most extreme images are given plenty of screen time and we’ve never seen a film with so many cocks in it. But it’s thoughtful and tender at times, in between lurid stories of goings in in clubs like The Mine Shaft. Go and see it, but maybe not with your mum.

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