Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe  (November 4, 1946 – March 9, 1989) was an American photographer, known for his sometimes controversial large-scale, highly stylized black and white photography.  His work featured an array of subjects, including celebrity portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits, and still-life images of flowers.  His most controversial work is that of the underground BDSM scene in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s of New York.  The homoeroticism of this work fueled a national debate over the public funding of controversial artwork.  (More from Wikipedia)

Patti Smith has been more or less a recluse all of her professional life – the whole time I was in NY, her only performance was a poetry reading that I passed on – but she has been getting a little more prominence lately, I am delighted to see:  She interviewed Johnny Depp in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine and has an acclaimed memoir out now called Just Kids, about her life with her late roommate, the brilliant and notorious photographer Robert Mapplethorpe
(January 2011)
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Patti Smith grew up in Chicago and is of Irish descent.  She moved to New York City in 1967 and met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe; they had a tumultuous romantic relationship that was exacerbated by their poverty and Mapplethorpe’s struggles with his sexuality.  In her multiply-award-winning 2010 memoir, Just Kids about their time together, Patti Smith refers to Robert Mapplethorpe as “the artist of her love”.  His photographs of her became the album covers for the Patti Smith Group albums. 


Patti Smith suffered a series of losses in quick succession beginning with the death in November 1994 of her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith, followed by the unexpected death of her brother Todd Smith – her band’s keyboard player Richard Sohl and her early love Robert Mapplethorpe had died four and five years earlier.  She reemerged from that pain more visible than ever; her next album, Gone Again (1996) was perhaps her most self-assured effort and included a tribute to Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, “About a Boy”.  The final track is a heartbreaking tribute to her late husband, “Farewell Reel”. 


(February 2014)


Last edited: March 22, 2021