Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

Institute History

  • 2016 Sundance Film Festival


Nude men in rubber suits, close-ups of erections, objects shoved in the most intimate of places—these are photographs taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, known by many as the most controversial photographer of the twentieth century. Openly gay, Mapplethorpe took images of male sex, nudity, and fetish to extremes that resulted in his work still being labelled by some as pornography masquerading as art. But less talked about are the more serene, yet striking portraits of flowers, sculptures, and perfectly framed human forms that are equally pioneering and powerful.

In Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey's Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, we face his images head on and, explore—through no-holds-barred interviews with his closest colleagues and friends—rich details and anecdotes about what drove this handsome, suburban-born artist to so aggressively upend the conventions of photography. Perhaps most striking about this film is how fresh and ahead of its time his work still feels today. In an era immune to shock value, Mapplethorpe's images still raise eyebrows and demand attention in ways few photographs ever have.

— Harry Vaughn

Screening Details

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