The dungeons and diamonds, the penthouses and pillow talk Jack Fritscher relives his love affair with Robert Mapplethorpe the hustler with a Hasselblad whose sexually explosive photographs thrilled and horrified America
One hundred days after Robert Mapplethorpes celebrity-studded funeral, the gun-loving conservative politician Jesse Helms stood on the floor of the US senate and waved a photograph in the faces of his fellow representatives. The black and white shot, showing two men dressed from head to toe in leather, was called Larry and Bobby Kissing. Look at the pictures! screamed Helms, who was outraged that government money had helped fund The Perfect Moment, a Mapplethorpe retrospective in Washington DC. Look at the pictures!
Look at the pictures. Robert left a legacy of thousands of beautiful photographs of faces, flowers and fetishes when he died of Aids on 9 March 1989 at the age of 42. He had assaulted American concepts of race, sex, gender and morality. Born in Floral Park, New York, in 1946, he was on trial all of his short life, anti-gay legislation making him a sexual outlaw. His work too was on trial: it ran gauntlets of homophobia to hang today in such international sanctuaries as the Tate in Britain, and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In 1990, at the height of US hysteria over Aids, a witch hunt in Cincinnati put seven of his frames on trial, aiming to sort art from obscenity. Roberts photos won.
He changed popular culture. The sort of sex pictures he dared to shoot are now shot every day by millions, minus his style, on Snapchat and Grindr. It is a victory that he is being celebrated this year in two major exhibitions in the US, and in the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, out next month.
Read more: www.theguardian.com