30 Great Robert Mapplethorpe Photos – And Not One is Offensive

30 Great Robert Mapplethorpe photos
Robert Mapplethorpe, Lisa Lyon, 1982

I just wrote about the Robert Mapplethorpe documentary, Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures, airing on HBO next week, because it’s the first complete look at the late photographer’s work. But I hear so many people say “his work is not for me” that to combat their ignorance, here are 30 great Robert Mapplethorpe photos – and not one offensive one in the bunch.

30 Great Robert Mapplethorpe Photos

Those only familiar with his more controversial work, such as the X Portfolio and other of his hardcore S&M images (neither of which have examples I can publish here without getting severely penalized by Google), incorrectly think of his work as merely shocking, grotesque and offensive.

“The X Portfolio centers on men engaged in gay sex, including hard-core sadomasochism. The subject wasn’t entirely new. In Greek vase decorations, Indian miniatures and pagan temple sculptures, candid and highly refined sex pictures, heterosexual and homosexual, have been around since before Alexander the Great and the Mahabharata.” – Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times Art Critic

And yes, several of those photos are hard to look at – but do not let that put you off enjoying his oeuvre. So much of his work reveals the beauty of human anatomy, the elegance of nature and exposes the wistfulness of the soul. And here are several examples, in no particular order.

Anemone, 1989

Ajitto, 1981

Iggy Pop, 1981

Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984

Grace Jones 1988

Holly Solomon, 1976

Isabella Rosellini, 1988

Shoe Melody, 1987

Derrick Cross, 1982

Brooke Shields, 1988

Sleeping Cupid, 1989

Derrick Cross, 1985

Francesco Clemente, 1983

Skull and Crossbones, 1983

Lindsay Key, 1985

Italian Devil, 1988

Poppy, 1988

William Burroughs, 1979

Thomas, 1987

White Gauze 1984

Andy Warhol, 1987


Marissa Berenson, 1983

Sigourney Weaver

Grace Jones 1984 (body art by Keith Haring)

Lisa Lyon, 1982

Arnold Schwarzenegger 1976:

Ken Moody, 1983:

all photos (C) Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Some from The Tate and some from the Guggenheim

You can find more of his work at the following links:
Robert Mapplethorpe Books on Amazon
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Guggenheim Online Collection
The Tate Collection