Every great artist has their niche. Constable had landscapes, Turner had boats and renowned American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe had genitals. In fact, it’s fair to say that, in his 42 years, the legendary snapper took more pictures of ‘old chaps’ than a Saga magazine paparazzo.
But while he’s best known for his explicit depictions of the male form, Mapplethorpe’s portfolio extends far beyond artful nudity. Up until his death in 1989, he was shooting celebrities as diverse as Yoko Ono, William Burroughs and Patti Smith, notably for the sleeve of her 1975 album Horses. British pop artist David Hockney cites him as a big inspiration.
And he’s picked out his favourite pieces, which include this 1981 shot of Iggy Pop in his snarling heyday, aged just 34. It’s part of a new book Mapplethorpe X7, which is structured around interviews with seven creative types, to offer a unique perspective of the man’s work. They also include photographer Cindy Sherman, visual artist Vik Muniz, fashion designer Hedi Slimane and German-born contemporary artist Sterling Ruby.
Hockney himself praises Mapplethorpe’s continuing impact on modern art and his unmatched skill, saying: “When he’s taking a photograph, he always knows what range of greys he’s going to get. That was his eye. He had an idea how it was going to look on paper. It was a craft.”In among the interviews are more of Mapplethorpe’s compelling, star-studded images. A quick flick through throws up Andy Warhol, Marianne Faithfull and a pre-Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger, pictured mid-bicep flex in 1976. Thankfully, though — unlike many of Mapplethorpe’s subjects — Arnie’s modesty is covered.
© Mapplethorpe - MX7, is published by teNeues, £50, www.teneues.com. Iggy Pop, 1981, © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.