Robert Mapplethorpe: Flowers

While Robert Mapplethorpe might be best known for his provocative portraits, the photographer also had an obsession with flowers, capturing lilies, roses, and tulips in both black-and-white and color film. Nearing the end of his career in the mid-1980s, the photographer turned his lens toward delicate blooms—a deliberate departure from past subjects like BDSM and nudity. The artist’s interest in inanimate objects allowed Mapplethorpe to retain control over his subjects, at a time when his health was weakening due to HIV/AIDS-related complications. Mapplethorpe’s floral still lifes often contain elements of eroticism —close shots of the flowers’ bulbs and stems draw parallels to the phallic imagery featured in Mapplethorpe’s more explicit …

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