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A black and white photo by Robert Mapplethorpe of two men hugging.

Daily Helping for February 17th, 2023 – Robert Mapplethorpe

I have no idea how it took me this long to discover the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. His photographs are stunningly beautiful, and I’ve spent hours staring at them since his name first came to my attention. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

I’ve also spent some time reading up on his biography, and sadly, none of it surprises me. Robert Mapplethorpe was a photographer who worked primarily in black and white, and his subjects were quite varied. But he also famously took photos of New York’s queer scene in the 60s and 70s, and in particular, the city’s BDSM subculture. His subjects were often nude and his photos were often erotic, so of course his work was deemed controversial. But then again, the US is famously squeamish about depictions of sexuality of any kind, let alone queer sexuality.

As I said, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at his photographs recently. And while I can understand why the sexually charged ones get all the attention, it was actually the more simple photos and portraits that really pulled me in. Photos of two men hugging or just dancing together. Those were the photos that I found so beautiful. Art and society rarely let men of any orientation just be gentle and intimate with each other, something I’ve always found to be exceptionally sad. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to Robert Mapplethorpe’s work. Yes, some of his photos can be seen as shocking. But to me, they’re just beautiful.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!